IGN Studios: Creating original content with a focus on videogames
With a reach of 257 million users through 27 platforms and 40 million social followers, IGN has become the world’s leading mass media relating videogames. At its core, an interesting production company called IGN Studios, dedicated to creating content for the entertainment industry, videogames and, of course, esports. Simultaneously, world-class clients such as Hulu, Youtube, The CW, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Netflix or Nintendo, amongst others, trust in this company’s skills for developing branding and sponsored content of the highest standard.
Peer Schneider, co-founder of IGN Entertainment and current CCO, gave us an in-depth view of goals, scope and capabilities of this interesting company that is ready to meet any technical requirements demanded by this industry and face a significant workload through five studios.
What is IGN Studios and what kind of services does it provide?
IGN Studios is the inhouse production arm of IGN Entertainment – focused primarily on creating original, branded, and sponsored content at a higher budget level than our core programming team. While IGN Core creates programming centered around news, talk, reviews, and YouTube-friendly Let’s Play, Studios works with our editorial team and partners to produce travel content, behind-thescenes and making-of featurettes, documentaries, and event programming.
What kind of content do you produce?
Most of our content is produced for the web – and, by extension, OTT platforms. As such, IGN content is seen across streaming apps like Samsung TV, Roku, AppleTV, as well as console platforms. IGN Studios also worked with Disney XD on an IGN branded games and information magazine show, called The IGN Show, for a custom gaming block on the channel, as well as with Facebook Watch for multiple high-profile shows.
Is VOD programming currently more important for IGN Studios than live? How important is live content in the habits of eSports consumers?
VOD programming affords us greater flexibility in promotion and distribution, so it’s still our prime focus, volumewise – especially since we’re a global content business serving so many different time zones. Live programming is crucial for events – whether it’s Comic-Con or E3, or the world of esports. We carry and amplify official tournament streams like the Fortnite World Cup across web platforms, YouTube, and OTT platforms. There’s nothing like a live stream when it comes to spectating a live tournament — but we also break out VOD clips afterwards for those that can’t tune in.
What type of facilities has IGN Studios? Do you own yours or do you film in third-party studios?
IGN owns and operates five studio facilities. There are three studios at our San Francisco headquarters, including a 4V4 competition setup capable of recording eight 1080/60 streams in a turnkey fashion, as well as two flexible studios featuring a podcast and news set, as well as a living room, LED wall, and bar setup. Additionally, there is a studio in LA focused on entertainment news and celebrity interviews and a supplemental interview set in our London office. These studios are exclusively used for IGN content and are currently not made available to third parties.
What is your production standard? Are you ready for 4K workflows?
Given that console and PC gamers are early adopters when it comes to both high-resolution displays and consuming video at high bitrates and resolutions, we made sure that we were 4K production capable early on. We currently produce key content in 4K, but pick and choose based on the target audience. We are about to update our internal storage capabilities to ensure easier collaboration with 4K assets.
What is the most relevant TV technology for eSports viewers in your opinion?
Is it resolution, HDR, FPS? Online, lowering latency is a key focus for streaming providers. YouTube and Twitch are competing for the least latency; esports fans care a lot whether they see the action as it happens or on a time delay. But resolution and high framerate are also important as the biggest esports titles – and games in general – are so high action that a clear view is paramount.
Does IGN Studios have technology partners? What brands do you include in your workflow?
We don’t have a technology partner. Our studios setup is largely a Blackmagic infrastructure that includes their URSA Mini Pro Cameras, ATEM Constellation Switchers, and studio and camera fiber systems. We also have crucial equipment from AJA, Atomos, Decimator, and Marshall, along with some selfdeveloped workflow integration.
When building a production unit focused on esports… what are the main technical differences compared to a traditional TV workflow?
Most of our programming involves a studio setup with a two or three-camera setup, a single display like an LED wall, and potentially 4K video capture of the gameplay source. With competitive programming, we may have the same studio setup plus four to eight additional video feeds that we switch between and need to capture, as well as a commentator booth with access to see all the players compete. Everything has to function well enough to do live-totape, even if the competition play isn’t live.
Does the technology industry meet the esports TV production needs today?
We were an early player in the esports content production field, with IGN’s very own league called the IPL. At the time, the production effort required was simply too high to create a profitable business and we moved away from event production to focusing on our core competency, reporting, reviewing, and covering the gaming space as a whole.
How is the IGN workflow integrated into Twitch?
Twitch is home to an avid viewership and an important syndication platform for us – but while we’ve dabbled with linear “show” programming, we have so far online seen success with live event broadcasts. When we stream competitions or interview and demo programming from events like Comic Con, Gamescom, or E3, we syndicate our streams to multiple platforms – Twitch is one of them.
You said you have worked with Disney on a TV Show. Could you give me some details of this production?
Prior to its acquisition of Fox, Disney started to build out a gaming and young male focused programming block on Disney XD. During our partnership, we broadcast live programming from the annual E3 expo in LA and collaborated on a half-hour show about video games. The IGN Show took the form of a variety program with a focus on giving people access to places they couldn’t always go. It was part news show and part travel show, letting viewers behind the velvet rope at tournaments or major fan events.
What’s the future of IGN Studios? Are you currently under renovation in any of your areas?
We just brought on a new lead for our branded content efforts, Luanne Dietz. Luanne is a threetime Emmy Award winner and Cannes Lion recipient. We’re looking forward to seeing how she’ll help us shape our programming in the future.
Are esports here to stay?
According to our biennial Gamer Segmentation Study, about a quarter of the gaming audience actively watches esports, while more than 40% of gamers like to spectate other players when they’re gaming. While esports viewing has slowed in growth in the US over the years, it’s still growing internationally – and we’re hopefully that the entry of more “casual” games like Fortnite can further help esports to draw new fans. It’s definitely here to stay.