As the world of gaming matures, the influence of content creators and influencers on game development and marketing is increasingly important. In this episode host Devin Becker sits down with Justin Sacks, CEO of Nexus, and Bryan Herren, Director of Partnerships for Off Brand, to delve into the pivotal role of content creators in shaping the gaming ecosystem. The conversation kicks off with an exploration of the origins and current endeavors of Nexus and Off Brand, shedding light on their creator-centric approach and the significance of being a creator-owned entity.

As the discussion unfolds, Justin and Bryan illuminate the transformative power of content creators, emphasizing their importance beyond mere promotion. Drawing from their extensive experience, they showcase examples where content creators have wielded significant influence in game development and live operations, transcending traditional roles to impact game content and audience engagement. Delving deeper, the conversation navigates the nuances of working with diverse content creators, from those focused on specific games or genres to versatile personalities with broad demographic appeal.

Furthermore, the episode delves into the intersection of entertainment and technical aspects of game development, highlighting the potential benefits of educating content creators on industry processes and fostering transparency. Justin and Bryan also examine the evolving landscape of esports and user-generated content, envisioning a future where content creators play a pivotal role in the burgeoning UGC and modding scenes. As the conversation concludes, the duo reflects on the future of the gaming industry, offering insights into the potential risks and challenges of deeper content creator involvement while outlining the future opportunity to build around creators for Nexus and Off Brand in this dynamic landscape.


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This transcript is machine-generated, and we apologize for any errors.

Devin: Hello, everyone. I'm your host, Devin Becker, and today I'm delighted to be joined by Justin Sacks, the CEO of Nexus, and Bryan Herren, the Director of Partnerships at Off Brand. And Nexus is a turnkey solution for game creator programs, and Off Brand is a creative studio built by creators, and today we're going to explore the potential for creators to lead content instead of just reacting to it.

So why don't we just start by just getting to know you guys a little bit? Bryan since you have not been on here before why don't you just tell us a little bit about your background in as well as how off brand like the origin story.

Bryan: Yeah, absolutely I was very lucky to be a esports commentator and analyst in the DOTA 2 scene for a while I joined a studio called beyond the summit in 2014 at the dawn of You Esports really taking off worked there for quite a while and made some good relationships with some people that are at my current company off brand.

But I worked there for a while, transitioned, spent some time at Curse, which was a Twitch subsidiary at the time was again, very lucky to be on the original founding team for D& D Beyond, which was then acquired by Wizards of the Coast and then continued a little bit of a journey into the game publishing realm where I Did game publishing for the last three years focusing on indie games.

And then found myself back with the old team after beyond the summit was acquired and merged with off brand to, see what the future of creator led content looks like.

Devin: Awesome. What about yourself, Justin?

Justin: Yeah, Bryan and I had somewhat parallel experiences. We had one brief intersection.

I got started also in e sports as a competitive player and then eventually a content creator at university. I built a little coaching website for League of Legends. And then I actually, I also joined up with Curse. This is in 2013 and I was with him up until the Twitch acquisition. And so I was running BizDev at the time and then left to start building Nexus.

And basically we believe something that's maybe now very obvious and pertinent to this conversation that. A lot of the way people learn about games, get excited about games and stay engaged with games is based on that player's favorite content creators, the personalities that they follow on YouTube or Twitch or the discord communities that they're a part of.

And so we wanted to build a platform that helped really connect game publishers with content creators and in a holistic and evergreen way. And that is now my life's purpose.

Devin: Definitely in both of you coming at this from pretty different angles. One interesting aspect though of off brand is my understanding is it's creator owned as well as obviously creator employed.

What difference do you think that makes in terms of how things work or like benefits to the creators, things like that?

Bryan: Yeah, I think for us sometimes frustratingly it means that our focus is on. Ensuring that the creator feels good about what is being done and that we're never sacrificing community for the sake of making money or aligning ourselves with something that doesn't work because in the current creator economy, your reputation your trust in your community is absolutely everything.

And so it makes us be much more long sighted and what we're looking at. We're not just building things to. Make sure that we have good quarterly revenue. Even though good quarterly revenue is very important it's more about Ensuring that the creators that we're working with and the creators that have founded our company are there to stay and that everybody who has You know been on this journey with them as creators still wants to be on that journey with them even though they've gotten big

Devin: Cool. Both of you have obviously different relationships with creators But at the same time it mostly revolves around gaming What do you guys think and i'll start with you justin? That makes content creators actually important to gaming as opposed to people might have the perceptions that are like leeching off of it or taking advantage of it.

How are they important to the ecosystem as a whole?

Justin: In almost innumerable ways. Everything from discovery. So how do players learn about games? A lot of the times their primary channel is actually through content creators, where in the past it might've been news and reviews and and in the past, even further than that from like physical events and things of that nature.

Beyond that of staying engaged with games, how people learn about what's happening in live service games, what's coming up, the reason for them to come back to it. A lot of that comes from content creators. I think the value that a creator can drive is even today, undiscovered the significance of that.

So like understanding just how meaningful creators can be to a game's longevity is really challenging. Do those creators engage players that otherwise wouldn't stay engaged? Do they drive incremental sales that wouldn't otherwise have happened? I think a lot of that is happening in a way that we don't have the current attribution tools, or at least they're not widespread for publishers to understand.

But creators are like the meaningful way. And I think it's almost unique to gaming in that fashion. I think. If you look to the other entertainment verticals, whether that's books or television and movie movies, or it's music, a lot of the times there's these giant publisher houses that pop up that create all the content.

And so like a musician has to be assigned to them, but because gaming has been so distributed, it's be, it's created a lot of challenges around discovery. Like if you could choose for a game to be either, if you could put a hundred stat points into either discovery or into quality, I think pretty much every publisher would put them into discovery of like, how do you actually reach the audience that'll be interested?

And creators are, the main thrust of doing so in our industry.

Bryan: I mean like 50 games released on steam every day. It's a discovery is so important

Devin: I mean I and this is one of those questions and I feel like it's kind of a dumb question But I don't hear it asked really often and I would love to hear your guys's take on it.

We'll start with you Bryan is why should Like these content creators exist outside of the game companies and the publishers and stuff, as opposed to publisher, obviously games have usually community managers, right? But they don't necessarily always have content creators. Why don't game developers themselves have this content creation happening from the inside that isn't necessarily from the marketing department so much as something similar to what we're seeing in the industry.

Externally, but focused, like Nintendo Power was a good example of a first party magazine that was, like a content creation that was didn't pretend to be. Completely unbiased, but was still enjoyable.

Bryan: I think it, it depends on kind of your resources, right? If you're a AAA game studio, you probably have the ability to do it.

In terms of just like the money you require to get really large creators on your side. But as an indie developer not only do you have, you struggle with discovery already, but you just, you struggle with the ability to get a large content creator on your side these creators are, for lack of a better word, like sometimes stuck in change to what the trends are and can't always take a bet on a new title or a new thing.

And so I think what's important is these companies that are spinning up and trying to make sure that they are getting in at the ground floor and getting creators involved early. So they're invested in the full process versus, being one of. 20 games that are just sending a key to a creator's inbox and hoping and praying that they pick up the game and play it.

Justin: I think one thing to add to that a trend that is worth observing is that we have seen some studios bring creators in house but it's usually not in exactly the way that you're talking about like one of the most common if not the most common graduation for a content creator when they are they're past their apex.

They're starting to lose Followership, or they don't want to stay in that content treadmill anymore is they actually moved into community and influencer management. And a lot of times that does mean internal to studios. And we've actually seen the games that do that successfully, where they bring creators in house.

Have actually performed incredibly well. Like it's way more likely that they're going to have the right creator strategy, that they're going to have the right community strategy, that their general marketing 10 polls and their general marketing beats will be able to include creators in a way that is.

Beneficial to the game and to their community. It's way more likely to be successful if they actually have that creator expertise and background in house. And so we've seen some of that now, how do we professionalize that? How do we get that to spread more into the industry? That's challenging. I think it's not really clear.

Like most of the folks that have followed that path who've graduated from being a full time content creator to going in house at studios, they had to do it themselves. They had to figure out how did they network into those studios? How did they convince the right? EP or GM of the game in order to make that happen.

But laying down more of those tracks for folks to follow. I think that's a thing I'd like to see the industry move in that direction.

Devin: Yeah. It makes me think of Marvel snap eventually when they started releasing the developer updates which are these cheesy, almost movie referencing things started incorporating some of the more popular content creators into those actual videos as pseudo actors and things like that, which is heavy.

Yeah. We shot a lot of those ads at off brand. It's definitely something that I think is a, obviously, as you mentioned, probably a good trend, but Byian, do you have some good examples that have content creators seeking like a more influential role in the game development or live ops outside of just promoting the game?

Bryan: Yeah, I think there's a couple of angles there. I think you have, I think the simplest one is, and so far the most successful version of this is what donkey has been able to do with animal. Well, I mean, Obviously. Recent and as it did really well, but ducky was someone that said, Hey, I've been very successful.

I want to give back for, to the industry that has made me very successful. I love video games. And I, what I want to do is find something that I think is going to be great. Lend them my capital. Both social and Fiat and also work to make sure that this game that I think is great is successful.

And well, as a game that I think we've all agreed and can all see is a very successful and really well respected and reviewed game, but maybe it needed the spotlight, the donkey was able to shine on it. So I think that's a huge aspect of it. Once again, to go back to what I said, 50 games released on steam every single day discovery is super important.

But then, but I think other than that. Aspect donkey even himself said, I'm not very involved in this project. I'm not giving feedback. I'm not reviewing builds of the game. I'm going to support it and be more of a curator. We think about like artists communes back in the day when people who are really successful would just bring in people whose work they loved and said, Hey, I'm Make stuff and I'll give you the support and the area to make that.

And then I think you have groups like bad mushroom who are taking a more like hands on approach where. I've talked to creators, I'm in LA, I'm based in LA with a lot of creators. I talked with a creator Will Neff recently who went down to Austin and was like, Oh, I got to play all these games and give all this feedback and work with this team about like how to make the game better.

And I think that's a really exciting angle too, which is if your game is going to rely upon creators engaging with it. You need their feedback early so that you can make your game work for that environment and keep fit, get feedback for them. So I think there's a couple of angles to go about it.

And mad mushroom and big mode donkey's company are both kind of good examples of how to do that at the moment.

Justin: NWL is such the perfect example of the developer put all a hundred of those stat points into quality and then leveraged a publisher through Dunkey to just be like, okay here's just another hundred stat points and we can just put them all into distribution and a game that so like tragically could have been overlooked wasn't.

And now it's known by so many people who've fallen in love with it and spread it to their friends. And I think it's such a great example of the magic of combining Creators with game development.

Devin: So then do you guys think in general that it makes sense for content creators, at least some of the time to have some influential role in game development.

And I think or at least the content and I asked the site for, from the perspective of maybe them knowing a specific demographic or audience that they have, if that makes sense to be building for that particular audience, things like that for, especially for games that might be a little more niche for example, do you guys think it makes a lot of sense there?

Justin: So to illustrate like where it makes sense, I think it's worth talking about where it doesn't where it doesn't make sense. There are some games that today aren't the best fit for content creators. And like the best way for me to describe it is the gradient of core to hypercasual. And the closer you are to hypercasual, the less of a natural fit it is for content creators.

And I think on the other side, The more inorganic the relationship is between the creator and the studio or the creator and the publisher, the more like contrived or inauthentic it is, the less likely it will be to succeed. And so, like, deciding listening to this podcast, you're some head of publishing at a publisher, you listen to this podcast and you're like, oh my god, we need creators to give us their feedback.

Who's right now in the top five on Twitch? Don't care what genre they're in, don't care what community they're in, let's get them in to tell us what they think. It's going to be hard for that to work, but if you flip that and like the more organic and the more authentic and the more like obviously connected, the creator will be with that genre or that game or that comparables the way more likely to be successful.

And I think there's also really great ways to go about it where you bring in, a handful of creators early in to give feedback during development. And then you identify who's going to be those lighthouse creators, who's going to be the ones that other creators will rally around that this individual will fall in love with our game and we'll bring it not just to their audience, but bring it to other creators and then have that person tied closely with development that can work really well.

But if you're just like last minute games about to come out, hey, come and take a look at this tour of the studio, give us your thoughts. That's going to be tough.

Bryan: Yeah, I'd agree with that. And Justin's point was a hundred percent correct. And what you have to also think about is not only is it important that the creator is aligned with the game, their audience is also, as a result of that, going to be aligned with that, right?

So if you take a huge FBS creator, even if they, Oh, they were like, Oh yeah, secretly, I love this. Roguelike game that you're making, but they never play roguelikes on stream. It's half of the power of bringing the creator on board is lost because their audience doesn't care. So it's, you have to think about both the creator and the audience.

Devin: Then that brings me to another question, which is just the general thoughts you guys have on working with a spectrum of content creators from those that are focused on just a single game or a single genre to those that are just like multi game players and things like that.

They're also often very influential in discovery because they're bouncing from game to game, and it is hard to get discovery from someone that's focused on one game, right? If that's not your game, so what are your guys general thoughts on that spectrum and how that should be utilized I guess more detailed than you just gave on that topic.

Justin: It like overly simplistic and probably reductive like framework or heuristic to think about it is the larger and more variety given a creator is the better they're going to be for awareness. And the more focused and niche and one game focused a crater is the better they're going to be for conversion.

And so it depends on what you're trying to get. If you're trying to get people to buy the game and stick within it, you want people that are, their Venn diagram of them and their audience is like more closely aligned in the middle. But if you're just like, Hey, our game has been out for a while and we need other audiences to engage with it, we need to get a lot of feedback from a lot of different perspectives.

Then going towards those variety content creators that play a bunch of different games, that can be valuable. And so, depends, which is not a great answer.

Bryan: Yeah, I think it's you just have to be smart. You have to think about what your game is. If your game is, I mean, so much of game marketing nowadays, both in a good and bad way can be, Hey, it's like X thing you love, but with Y difference, right? And so if you can't identify that you're a game that's like that, then getting creators where their audience and their content is about X and bringing those folks in and being like, Oh I really love what they did with Y.

That's really powerful, right? That's very powerful. But if you're a game that's trying something new or is a very unique kind of thing, then going for more of a variety spread is probably the best option.

Justin: One thing to add as well is, it's not just about launching a new game, but if your game's been out for a long period of time, it's a live service game, it's been out for months or years or whatever it might be, the initial thought of most marketing teams is, it's okay.

We're going to do a let's deploy this creator strategy. We need to reach out to creators that have never played our game. You can do that and that's okay, but make sure you pay attention to your organic creators and also, and maybe even especially your churned creators, the creators that used to play the title.

Cause one of the metrics that people overlook a lot of the time is. Your most engaged players, the best, the single best thing you can do to retain those players longer than what they normally would. And they're the cohort you most care about is by caring about the creators that they watch. And so it's super easy.

And maybe even intuitive to think your game's been out for three years, you have, these three dozen organic creators that play it every day or every week. Let's not go to them. We're not going to give them any money or give them any special items or not give them any attention. We're going to go to all these people who've never played our game because that's going to reach a new audience.

Maybe, for sure what you should do is pay attention to your core. They do matter.

Devin: Cool, that makes a lot of sense. I think that's some good framework for thinking about which end of the spectrum to go for. And a lot of times it sounds like, depends on where you are in the phase of marketing, which makes sense, right?

As well as how you're trying to target demographic. I do wonder how difficult it is for new genres or like games that are just out there to go. And obviously there are maybe just streamers that generally play games that are out there and you target them as their non genre, basically the eclectic group.

So it makes for an interesting marketing strategy, obviously one that it seems like becoming a little bit more necessary which of course is great for you both. But as well as content creators. And I think it's spreading things out, but when it comes to being more involved in the game development part of things if they start to become more of that content creators, generally, at least my perception is that they generally focus a bit more on the entertainment side of things, right?

They're, they're playing games. Obviously they have, might have some skill in gaming, like maybe coming from an esports background, things like that, but they're generally focused more on the entertainment side of things. Game development itself. Is unfortunately very technical and also a financial thing.

So how does that gel when it comes to bringing content creators in to more, to be more involved because you'll get them like, maybe complaining if they're not part of it, like publicly about like, why don't they just add this? It's so simple. And that kind of mentality, that's the Reddit whining mentality.

With content creators, they don't. Necessarily. No. Do you guys, take some time to educate the, is there like a process for that or how do you think about that, Bryan?

Bryan: I think it's important for, if you're going to be a creator, he was looking at publishing to surround yourself with people that can help bridge that communication gap, that have the skills to be able to communicate to you why certain things wouldn't be possible. It's not. A new thing in the world of consumer goods to have a creator put their name on a very complicated product to make, whether it's Ryan Reynolds making gin or Kylie Jenner making cosmetics. I don't think you could ask Ryan Reynolds how to distill an alcohol and have any idea what that process looks like.

And so it's very, maybe he does, who knows, maybe he spent some Um, but I think at the end of the day, it's about. Hey, the respect of understanding that it's a craft. It's very difficult and surrounding yourself with people who are going to help facilitate that and then understand where you were valuable.

In my experience. I think there's this probably pretty negative connotation. The creators are to come in and think that they're The best thing that's ever existed and have a lot of haughtiness and a lot of ego. And in my experience, that's not really true. A lot of the creators, because they've spent a lot of time with games, understand how difficult it is and will provide their feedback and understand that.

It's up to their teams and up to the people that they're working with to implement that feedback. And if it's not doable, it's not doable. But to stay in their lane and the important aspects, but also give their feedback and see where their feedback can be made into change is appropriate.

Justin: The only thing to add, cause I think that's perfectly said is if you're going to invite creators into this process. Only do it if you're actually going to listen to them. This like to do it performative or to do it because you think you're building a better relationship. So they'll market your game for free.

That's not going to work really great for you, but they will have something to offer. And so it's worth reaching out as long as you're ready to listen.

Devin: So I guess on that topic, one of the things I've personally even run into as a game developer is one, like a lot of times there's this sort of hostility from some parts of the game playing audience, especially in free to play and things like that, where they just don't understand a lot of the stuff happening internally.

And they make the game developers out to be these maniacal Mr. Monopoly villains, which is generally not true. Most game developers are usually like, want to make a great game. They actually want everyone to be really happy. And there's. This sort of thing where when you bring some people on like influencers or player counselors or whatever it is And explain to them like this is why this is this show them provide a lot of transparency to this particular person that you can't necessarily provide to the whole audience because of For whatever reason you just can't show all this stuff to everyone and then have them be a bit more of your advocate.

Sometimes then there's this perception that they're an employee of the developer and they're not being, they're being biased and all that sort of thing. And then you actually lose the influence of that influencer because now all of a sudden their audiences, Doesn't see them as authentic or sees, or assumes that they're censored in some way, because sometimes that does go around, right?

Where creators can't say certain things. How do you handle that situation, Bryan, like in terms of making it so that authenticity matters and stays and that when they speak like to the benefit of the publisher or developer, that it actually translates to that audience.

Bryan: I think this is quite literally the hardest part of this which is the sword that creators wield is their community power and that is empowered by their community trusting them.

And so it's. A creator cannot be willy nilly with their stamp of approval or the projects that they work on. I could tell you every game that was going to be good the month before it released, I would make a, I'd be a lot richer than I am right now. So it's obviously not possible to know ahead of time, like how a product is going to be received.

There are much bigger funded corporations making movies and they still don't know when their movie is going to flop. Rather than indie games, but I think it's really about making sure that you're aligned with a product that you believe in and a product that you trust. And even if it flops financially, it is at least still treating the customers well, and the consumers well, and their audience well, and that's what maintains that goodwill between the creator and their audience.

I think it's much more about maintaining a trust aspect of. I'm not sending you off a cliff to this game that is going to be predatory with its macro transactions or business model than it is necessarily like always putting your name on a banger. I think that's the thing that's really important.

And then aside from that, it's just it's about just being honest about your integration into these things. So if you are paid. Saying that you're paid if you're the publisher behind it, saying that you're the publisher behind it so that your audience feels like they're being talked to as like an adult and as an equal, instead of feeling like they're being hidden and speak to you like we all saw the crypto rug pulls of the last decade where.

The whole aspect of it was that the creator was not forthcoming with how involved they were in the process. And that's what caused the very predatory consumer community creator triangle to get really bad. So avoiding that as much as possible is the way to keep that. 

Devin: I mean, how do you admit being paid and still manage to convince the audience that you're not being biased or maybe that you are being biased, but because of this particular reason, this is how you genuinely feel and overcome that, that, because even if you admit you are being paid, there is still going to often be some belief that is influencing your judgment or that you might be biased.

And it might genuinely actually be causing some, judgment shifts and things like that. How do you communicate that well to the audience so that you guys can move past that?

Justin: And the best thing that I've seen in like through data is that first audiences, fans desperately want to support their favorite content creator.

The more transparent and direct the creator is, The better promotion actually turns out if the creator says, Hey, these folks paid me. If you buy this thing, it helps me out. That will perform much better than them being like, isn't this game neat? Don't you guys think this is a cool title? Like it, it just is better if they're really upfront about it.

And that's uncomfortable. And frankly, it's particularly uncomfortable in live streaming because you can see in real time, the feedback that your fans are giving and no, Twitch has much more engineered a culture of anti commercialization. And so it's just. Harder when you see people like shell question mark, and they're trolling you as you're promoting something, but it works way better when you're just really upfront and direct about it.

And so the more comfortable and often the culprit here isn't actually the creator, but it's the game in a misguided attempt to, Shield themselves from criticism they give, very direct uh, uh, deliverables that say, Hey, don't say that you're paid or don't say, what your opinion is, just play it.

But if you just let the creator do their thing and be as upfront and direct as possible, it actually works out the best.

Devin: And then how do you handle the situations where the content creator is rightfully very critical of the game meaning they're being really honest and forthcoming and you've told them, Hey we want you to be totally honest and forthcoming and they're just bashing the hell out of it because they're like still running into problems, live on stream and it's like, Hey, like this sucks.

What the hell guys? And the developer is not in a position to be able to fix that anytime soon or anything. Is that where you just bring them in and be like, yo, let's explain the situation. You guys, you can explain it to your audience so that you could still keep that criticism but with these caveats.

Bryan: Correct me if I'm wrong here, just, but I think these situations happen almost exclusively as the result of very short sighted and late term creator campaigns.

So it's like, you know, your game's about to launch and all of a sudden the marketing agency is. Sending out RFPs a month before launch to try to get creators on board to play a game. Whereas what we are all advocating for here, both at off brand and at Justin's company is bringing creators in early so that they're part of the process so that you're shielding yourself against that negativity.

 That's not to say that like the final product could never be bad and that the creator would never be in a situation to criticize some aspect of it. But if the creator is able to, get access to the game early, Play it occasionally, see some aspects of it, be involved with it from a much earlier aspect of it, and be involved in either the publishing of the game or the business model of the game through a different way, that's much less of a risk.

Justin: Yeah, it doesn't have to be a surprise. If you communicate, if you work with them ahead of time, and they're like, Hey guys, there's a lot of things wrong with this, and it is bad, then Don't do the promotion yet. Just wait until it's fixed or in a better place. And so, yeah, I think um, thinking about creator strategy, like day zero, it matters, and then like building the plan, working on the plan, engaging with creators before you need them to promote something like, then you're going to avoid these situations.

And maybe the decision is like they play the game and they're not having a great time, or there's some feature that's not in place so that they're not able to like actually be able to create the right content around it. And then you say, Hey, now is not the time to do a big creator push. Wait until those things are in a better place or, the game's in the right spot in order to make.

Take advantage of the resources that you've deployed.

Devin: I think that makes total sense. That's, I, one of the things that I guess sounds obvious, don't have them promote it when it's not going to be good promotion. , make sure they're involved early enough that nothing's a surprise in that case.

So yeah, that makes sense.

Justin: One of the challenges like another way to avoid this is to empower the people internal to your internal, to the publishing organization that deal with creators and community. If you just treat them as an afterthought. That shit can happen, but if they are part of like, they have a real seat at the table and their voice is heard internally, you're going to avoid all this sort of stuff.

Devin: Cool. Makes sense. Just pivoting a little bit here, you guys both have a background in e sports. So I'm curious what benefit there might be to both from content creator perspective and from the game developer published perspective, working with people that are current or former e sports players.

Esports competitors and, you know, it's sort of having that background when it comes to working with those games whether those be competitive titles looking to be Esports or just games that are maybe slightly more on the competitive side of things.

Bryan: Yeah, I would say for me, it's about understanding that, um, creators that are involved in this stuff, like they're very busy and there's a lot of.

Emotional drainage that comes from straight man. I mean, We probably all saw the controversy a couple of months back about how difficult of a job streaming is. And I think we'll all agree that it's not as physically demanding as being a minor in West Virginia. But at the same time, it can be very emotionally draining and difficult to be excited ahead.

For something new or something different or the pay promotion that you're doing. And I think as an e sports broadcaster, you understand what six hours in front of a camera, having to talk the whole time does to you. And what having to constantly be on does to you and having that empathy for the creators that you're working with to make sure that you're creating a program that works for them and their schedule.

I think that's the thing that's most important to me is I can't say that I've been anywhere as successful as a lot of the creators I'm working with, but, you know, I've had to sit in a chair in Belarus and have someone do my makeup and then go sit in front of a crowd and talk for two hours. I know how difficult that is.

And I understand a little bit of the struggle that they go through. And then as a result of that experience, I can help draft up and an integration that works with them and works for their schedule.

Justin: Yeah. I don't know how relevant this is, but one of the things I always think about when it comes to esports and game development is do not build a game esports first.

Build a game that is fun, that a lot of people are playing, and that has competitive elements, and then think about esports. Which is actually, Like that sounds like you should just do that for every potential system in a game, but you can build a game creator first, like that actually could work. But he sports first, not a thing.

It only works if there's enough of a community that actually wants to play and watch a competitive version of the game. And and the best place that you can learn about that is, is by people that have been in that world in the past and like seeing where that doesn't happen well, like when people try to develop the gaming sports first or when.

When folks are thinking about how to extract as much value as they can out of their e sports community, like a lot of bad things can happen. And so it really needs to be more organic and authentic than. Then, contrived or then manufactured.

Devin: And you both mentioned uh, this idea of like content creators being involved in game development, as opposed to the sports part of things, where, it makes a little more sense there for them to have a say as opposed to these words, first part being just difficult to actually make happen. But I'm curious outside of just the broader game started development scene where it's Double a to triple a games or even indie games.

Where do you see potential for content creators to gain traction industry in the UGC side of things as that's been a growing thing like obviously let's say you're an influencer and you build a fortnight island that sort of like ability to promote your own content. Within these platforms, as opposed to trying to build your own game, right?

Obviously like, someone like Dr. Disrespect trying to go build his own game, not an easy thing. And there's a reason why that game's not still out yet, right? Whereas developing a Fortnite island might be something more reachable. For example, even, if it's just maybe a small team of people from his community, stuff like that.

Justin: This is something I'm super excited about. And I have a very personal example of this. Frankly, like my background is probably actually more in modding than it even is in e sports.

Bryan: That's really like that. Like my past, that was curse

Justin: For sure. Mine was in like Starcraft and Warcraft three and, et cetera.

But yes. But even more recently with Nexus. So one of our creative program partners is an amazing game called balloons tower defense six. Probably most of the people listening to us I've heard of balloons, but they just recently launched A basically like a player reward system around UGC. So there's a way for you to create your own maps now in balloons.

And now as a player creator, there's a way to receive basically a revenue share when players enjoy your map. And then there's on top of that, a system with creator. With content creators. So instead of player creators, but content creators, when they promote maps, they also get it. And so it creates this like really beautiful incentive structure where content creators are promoting player creators.

And then also content creators are becoming those actual player creators themselves. And we, we like Fortnite is, is certainly doing an amazing job, but like Roblox has done an absolutely incredible job here where like Roblox has so many experiences, which is like what their mini games are called.

So many experiences that are not just. Promoted through content creators, but actually been developed by them. And I think that collaboration between content creator and player creator is something we're going to see so much more of from any of these games that are, That can act as platforms where there is some map or mode or build or mod or whatever that can be built within it.

We're going to see this almost a gradient of player creator to content creator and back and like how that feeds onto each other. And I think any of the games that engage in those systems will see so much longevity to their internal platforms.

Bryan: Yeah, I think too. I mean, We were talking about the two, like the unfairly bifurcated idea of what a creator can be either one game or variety, which is unfair, but.

Kind of true on a macro sense. It's the one way that like a one game creator can really extend their life cycle as a creator, which is. I'm a Fortnite streamer, I'm a Minecraft streamer, or I'm a Roblox streamer, or I am a GTA 5 streamer. It's UGC is how they can make their career go longer. And so they are very invested in making sure that there is consistently content for the game that their audience expects from them, because it's very difficult to make that transition from being the Fortnite streamer to being a variety streamer, for example.

And if you are a game that is able to be successful enough to have dedicated creators that are making content for your game, it is in your best interest to create UGC that creators can engage with because they also have it in their best interest to support it.

Devin: Makes sense. Although I imagine like the content creators are often a lot busier than what you see, right?

Because all the, the, the 10 minutes of footage you get on a YouTube video probably took hours for them to actually put together. And so I got to imagine like in the, in this situations where they're trying to also create, content, it probably does come down to having a lot of help either from maybe even the game developer or for our platform developer, or from fans or other content creators that they partner with, or, Things like that build up like mod teams, as you're probably familiar with Justin coming from the modding scene.

Justin: A hundred percent, but also the act of creating that in game content becomes their actual, like content, like public content that they're putting out. Hey, watch me develop this map. Like live streaming them building. Or they play it or they play it with you. Exactly. It's it is a really nice.

Devin: I mean, I bring up this question too, because you guys are talking about discoverability and that's a problem that's obviously developed over time in roadblocks. And if UGC does gain more traction across more platforms, then it becomes a new, a brand new problem for a brand new platform, which is just discovery being insane on there because it's like, there's going to be a ton of like, like when the app store first started turning gold rush and everyone could release whatever they wanted.

Obviously there was a lot of. Garbage there. And I imagine there will be the same with UGC platforms. So it does seem like that would be a big help to have like content creators as part of that.

Justin: There should be, depending on when this is released, a really cool partnership that we're doing in one of these platforms, exactly about this topic that I'm very excited to see what happens and it's around content creators, building stuff inside of these games and then.

What are the systems that benefit them and their audiences and the game itself?

Devin: Awesome. Definitely sounds like something Epic should be doing if they're not already, just because they're, going up against roadblocks and trying to get traction for you and EFN seems like a great way to do it.

They already have like really big streamers that came from Fortnite and stuff, so plenty of options there, I imagine. But like shifting a little bit outside of just games themselves transmedia has become a big topic, right? Where obviously there's been a resurgence or renaissance of doing content, especially movies and TV from video games that have actually been successful as opposed to being the the nineties era, just dump out stuff that's hopefully relevant culturally.

Generally flops. What role do you see content creators maybe even having as part of, not necessarily just for movies and TV, maybe for comics, maybe for like webcomic stuff, maybe for just lots of things in terms of like how involved they might be in that or like even a little cameos where they show up and like, Oh, it's that guy.

Like, you know, You see someone like, Oh, hey, it's Matt, Pat, and it, Five Nights at Freddy movie or whatever it was, he's there's little roles that like also can bring maybe the audience over or things like that.

Bryan: It’s so funny because I saw I was on vacation for Memorial Day with friends and the Oregon desert and a friend.

That I know doesn't play games had Sapnap Cheez Its. And I was like, do you even know who Sapnap is? He's like, no. I was like, okay wow. Minecraft streamer big guy. And you're like, he's oh, I just thought this was an anime guy on the side of my Cheez Its. Do think it's transmedia is very interesting in that way, because I think that's actually a very, I bring that up because I think it's a relevant case.

It's like, we don't really understand that The micro celebrity of even the biggest creators in our space. Even the biggest gaming creators are still just such a small slice of the pie in like, the global audience's awareness. The reason why movie stars are movie stars is because Brad Pitt can be in a movie and increase the box office just from them being included in the movie.

I do not think that's the case with gaming creators, because gaming creators have much more of a niche. You can't just put Dr. Disrespect on the front of a video game. You can't put Will Smith on a zombie video game and it's so well. Turns out we just saw that this year. I think as a result, it means that the way that you have to integrate creators, once again, as we've been talking about before, has to be holistic.

But I do think it's fun to have creators be involved in voice acting or have a role to play. I just don't think it's as integral. To the success as having them involved in activating their own communities versus being part of like the broader like strategy, it's just a different situation.

Justin: We've seen some of this.

Like there was a bunch of Twitch streamers and I think it was free guy was the movie a few years ago. I think very recently was like two weeks ago, Kai Sinat was in a Drake diss track. And so like, There is some of that, instead of gaming intersecting with pop culture, gaming becoming pop culture I think it's a trend, but it's not here today.

, for me, it's undoubtedly the future that gaming content will be tomorrow's celebrities, for sure.

Devin: I guess we'll keep a lookout for those cameos or Easter eggs in the meantime. As they slowly creep up and become more common. But like you said, I think it's a good way to put it is that it's more just the shift of gaming in the culture than trying to jam it in manually.

It's just becoming it, which makes a lot of sense. I think as people shift towards something like Tik Tok versus going to the movies or watching TV. Then that, Whoever's popular there shifts over to what people consume just in general, right? I don't think we'll see them on like a Wheaties box or anything, anytime soon, but you never know, right?

It's definitely possible. I didn't expect to see Sapnap Cheez Its this weekend, but I saw them. Exactly. You see the Mr. Beast food everywhere and all that stuff too. It's just, it's definitely happening. Albeit slowly, but it's definitely Risky to do, as you said, just because the cultural relevance may not be there yet, but in general, in terms of risks and things like that, we've talked a lot about the positive sides of this creator culture, things like that.

What do you think are the biggest risks and challenges of content creators being involved just more deeply in games in general?

Bryan: So a lot of what I spoke about before, it's your entire being in your career as a creator is based on trust with your audience. So like you have to make sure that what you're putting your name on is a good product.

And so the biggest risk is these creators getting involved in this holistic program where they're bought in, they're early, they believe in the product, they think it's great. And it releases and there's some drama or some issue where Their reputation is on the line. As a result, I think a pretty good example about this, about creators would be and somewhat unfairly.

But it's the best one that's in my brain right now is believe it was Valkyrie did like the blue light contact lenses, which I think is a fine. Our blue light makeup, maybe where it's like the blue light from your screen is supposed to affect it differently. There just wasn't a whole lot of science behind it.

She probably believed in the product and thought it was great. But once it was released, people were like, this isn't science. This is bad and revolted against it. And she had to kind of do a little bit PR damage control and deal with it. That's a big risk as a creator. That's a big risk for the brand that decides to get involved with the creator.

So I think you have to be really confident in the product that you have. To integrate a creator in early and feel really strong about it and make sure that the business model that you have is very consumer friendly. And the consumer friendly aspect of that, it doesn't mean you have to like, Make everything free.

It just means you have to set expectations upfront about what the consumer is going to get. Set expectations upfront, set expectations early, and be honest about what your business model is. And that'll avoid a lot of the risks here.

Justin: Yeah. I think, at the end of the day the difference is you don't own that creator's content.

You're not deciding what they do and you can't, and you won't. It is not a marketing campaign where you, it is your own creative and you can do whatever you want with it. Like when you work with creators. The only way it can work is if you give them the freedom and the distance and the time that they can make the content that they want to make.

And that comes inherently with its own risks. And also, one of the risks that people need to understand is that You also don't own, can't control the future. If something happens to that creator in the future, and they come, they're part of some controversy, like you can't erase that they were part of your, your experience, your game, your partnership in the past, and you have to acknowledge that and be okay with that.

And I think like wholeheartedly and very confidently, there's so much more upsides than there is potential downside and risk that you should always take that bet, but you have to go in eyes wide open to that. And frankly, like where we've seen the best things happen is when people embrace that, when they're like, okay.

I don't know, I'm not going to control what content they make. And so I'm going to give them as much latitude as they need to make the things that they're comfortable with. That's what turns into the best product. But it also like you have to be comfortable that it might not be the thing that you wanted.

Devin: Yeah. I got to mention there's that inherent risk that suddenly a week later, they come out with some neo Nazi video or something. And then you're just like now I'm associated with that. What can I do? And being prepared for that level of damage control yourself as a as a game developer, that you're just going to have to be okay, that could happen.

Bryan: I think most audiences today are aware of that situation because we've seen it so much in that if you do the correct steps to distance yourself, no one's going to hold it against you. Exactly.

Justin: Yeah. People aren't. It is. I can't imagine a situation where you're working with dozens, hundreds, thousands of individual content creators, and one of them is embroiled in something.

Awful or negative. And then people are like, Oh, that just means that product, has the same beliefs and values. That's like the general public and audiences aware enough and mature enough that they can see that distance. Now they a hundred percent will. Go to you and be like, Hey, do you support this person in their beliefs and you have to be ready to respond to that, but there, but once you respond to, they're not gonna be like, oh, they're lying.

They're still supporting them. If you cut that person off, if you remove them from the program, if you take them, whatever it is, they're gonna be like, okay, you've taken the steps and we acknowledge that. But also note. You're never going to have to do that when it's your own creative or it's not never, it's very less likely you're gonna have to do it.

And so again, there are those inherent risks, but if you acknowledge that there's enough upside and enough potential and rewards, like I think it's worth it.

Devin: Well, Hopefully that doesn't happen too often. I know we're in, in the midst of a bit of a cancel culture where that happens. And and that definitely can even come from just accusations and not always necessarily.

Something that truly happened, but definitely, hopefully doesn't set the industry back at all.

Bryan: Yeah. I would say to that, I would say to that point, as a brand, it's it's not your job to to be that. And so no one is owed a Sponsorship that one is owed a collaboration. And so if you're a brand and accusations happen I think there's a lot of times where you might want to try to defend the person or stick with them.

I think as a brand, you're well within your rights to just say, Hey. This is getting too hot for us. We're not at apple at court. We're going to step back, figure it out. I think that's the right play. I don't think there's a whole lot to be to be gained from trying to get a bat from somebody for something like that.

It's best to just step away. And remove yourself from the situation and let things go versus getting into kind of a conflict about it.

Devin: For sure. That brings up another question. Actually, I just realized that we, we talk a lot about the creators themselves being transparent about sponsorship, but what about the side of game developers being transparent about who they're sponsoring?

Because I don't feel like we really ever see that. We don't see them, you'll see the way people put PR like featured in this magazine or this magazine, but you don't see people broadcasting egg were featured by this content creator, other websites generally. And that might not always be true, but I don't feel like game developers generally are very forthcoming about who they're having as their promotional channels, so to speak.

Justin: They should it would be beneficial for them to do so, uh, to be like, Hey, look what this creator said. If you like this creator, you might like our game. That's almost like a table stake sort of thing. And sometimes the tools aren't really easy. That's where it could be helpful to have the right tools and partnerships and platforms that you can.

Collate all of those creator content and be like, Hey, all, if you, before you want to really deeply engage with our game, you want to see what other people think about it. Here's a bunch of the creators that we've worked with, or here's a bunch of the, people that have made content for us and you can go check it out.

I think that's definitely a great idea for a developer to do.

Devin: I definitely have seen I think Brawl Stars, for example, we'll have links to some sometimes YouTubes of, there's some other content creators, if it's content they want to feature. Maybe that seems like a good way to go about it as well as to make sure that there's that symbiotic relationship where the content created by the content creator is something that the developer would want to feature.

And therefore, like it works, both ways for them promoting each other.

Justin: Not to be biased, but this is like the core of what a creator program is all about is like, how do you have this bi directional incentive where the content creator wants to make content because the game will promote it and the game wants the content creator because the creator is going to promote it and like That's what a creator program does.

Devin: Awesome. It just, I know we've already covered a lot of it, so you might not even have a ton to add here, but just what are your guys general thoughts on kind of the future of the game industry from the perspective of both like amateur and professional content creator involvement, like where do we go from here?

Like we've obviously got a lot of stuff going on and we've touched a little bit on some different possible futures. Anything else you guys want to cover that. That's interesting or trends you're seeing or just predictions.

Bryan: I think just based on what we've said, it's like, you know, discovery is the number one issue for games and content creators are a extremely valid and powerful Avenue to increase your discovery and visibility.

So I don't think this is, I don't think this is a trend that goes away anytime soon. I think we're going to see more creators involved in it. In the same way that you see, athletes, Michael Jordan goes and buys a basketball team and is involved in the process because he knows what it is. It gave him a lot of money and he wants to reinvest that and be involved in the process.

Creators who have been making their living on video games want to Use their privilege and the money that they've made and reinvesting in the projects and have a functional way of actually adding value beyond just a suit with money, right? And so if I'm a developer, I'm excited about a creator investing in my game.

I feel like that's a double whammy. Not only do I get the money or the support that a publisher would provide, but I get the marketing angles. And so I think it's a market. Kind of situation where the market desires these creators, if you're a developer and so I think we, we will continue to see more and more of it until either publishers get better at marketing and discovery or creators get worse at it.

Justin: Yeah, I agree. I think two and a, two and a half trends for the future. I think one great example of Dunkey and animal. We're going to see more and more deep involvement with creators around development and publishing. And then two and a half, I think we're going to see more of the like revenue channel makeup of a creator, be commerce, be the actual sales that they're driving of in within games.

And I think similarly, the half on top of that is what we talked about with player creators. I think what we're seeing with UEFF and what we've seen with Roblox, I think that's going to continue to happen for any games that can support it. It's just, it is such a great flywheel when it's working. And so I think both of those things are going to continue into the future.

Devin: Speaking of the future, then I want to know what the future looks like for both you guys in terms of off brand and nexus, and we'll start with off brand. What do you guys have in store for us?

Bryan: We have a really exciting opportunity that we're going to be not an opportunity.

We're something that we're doing very shortly. We recently announced that we are spinning up off brand games, which is a publishing vertical underneath the off brand arm. We signed our first game and rivals too, which is a platform fighter sequel to rivals of ether, which is a very successful fighter.

A lot of things I'm talking about here, I believe in them fully cause we're doing it. Building and creators, be a building creator programs, getting them involved early in the process. To publish really exciting games is something that we're looking to do at off brand games. We also recently announced the fact that we are bringing on pirate software onto our our team.

He's going to be our director of strategy for off brand games. Continuing to build that creator pipeline of supporting and building out really great indie games that we believe in. And, that's our ethos moving forward is we want to find creators and developers that we believe in, at off brand kind of our DNA was we love creators.

We are founded by creators. We want to support creators and making the best possible content possible. And we think developers are creators, too, right? They're making their own content. They're making their own games. They're very similar in what they're doing to what a YouTube creator or a Twitch streamer is doing.

And we can take a lot of what we've learned from supporting creators and apply it to developers and make sure that they, Or as successful as possible. So we're really excited about that at Offbrand. And can't wait to see what the future holds.

Justin: You should be excited. That is so exciting. It's going to be awesome.

Nexus is uh, straightforward. We think. Every single live service game in the future should and will have a creator program, but they shouldn't have to build it themselves. And so we want Nexus to be the third party platform for any of those games to help build and manage their creator program, a way for them to partner directly with content creators in a holistic and evergreen fashion.

We want to make it so that each of these games can have a truly world class creator program that is the right program for their game and their community. And so that's all that we do is build the tools and the systems and the ecosystem to power that for all of our publisher and developer partners.

Devin: Awesome. I want to thank you both for coming on today. I think there's a lot of interesting stuff in the future. Obviously, hopefully you guys. Both find success there in terms of helping bolster this whole community because it's one of those things that's like growing but needs a lot of I think shepherding to go the right direction So hopefully you guys are able to be part of that definitely appreciate you guys taking the time to talk today and I think Looking forward to whatever you guys have in store for the rest of the year It means I’m also one of the listeners for you guys tuning in And hey, if there's any content creators involved with using this content, too, it'd be great But uh, thanks.

Thanks everyone and we look forward to seeing you guys on the next interview!

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