I have a lot to say and am finally at liberty to say most it, so here it is. First off, I have officially left Machinima.com for future videos. There are many reasons for this which I’ll cover and I’ll let you know what’s happening in the future. This is a post I’ve been wanting to make for months, but didn’t have all the info or legal grounds to do until now.
YOUTUBE TAKETH AWAY
Here’s a chart some of you may find interesting. It’s a record of the total views of all my videos (some 60+ or so) and the monetized views (views that advertisers on Youtube will pay for) for the past couple years (with my own commentary added):
As you can see, there’s been quite a fall from grace. My views have been cut in half multiple times, despite adding more videos this whole time. While you could maybe blame this on the age of the show or not having more frequent updates, that would only account for a gradual decline looking like a wheelchair ramp, not the dive bomber maneuver that is this chart. So what’s causing this? The short answer is Youtube. Their algorithm “tweak” in 2011 caused me to lose half my views. Not just in popular recent videos, in EVERYTHING from years back. I’ve read about many people losing up to 90% of their audience during this time. So are my old views going towards other machinima makers, giving lesser known people more exposure and a better chance of being seen? No, they’re going towards videos like this:
That video has 42 million views and will get recommended to you even if it has nothing to do with what you’re searching for. Why? Because Google can profit more by steering you towards videos already getting a crapload of views and by companies paying money to advertise their videos on Youtube more than they can by sending you only the more relevant results. Youtube’s “tweak” is making your search results worse than they used to be and it’s making already huge videos bigger and everyone else smaller because they’re less profitable. It’s essentially killing the “long tail.” The viewers lose because they won’t find as many custom-tailored results. Most content creators lose because it means a large drop in views. Best I can tell, the only people benefiting from these changes are companies that were already very large to begin with. Google’s motto has long been “don’t be evil”, well in my opinion, what they’re doing now seems kind of evil. Maybe they’re taking lessons from the music industry.
I can’t reveal how much money I make or have made from Machinima due to contract reasons, however I can say at one point it was enough for me to live off of, so I did. In retrospect, this was maybe a bit foolish of me, but when you’ve worked as many minimum wage hell jobs as I have before, being paid to work full-time on something creative is like manna from heaven. Believe me, I realize how incredibly lucky I’ve been to be able to make a living just from creating videos from videogame engines. I certainly don’t feel ENTITLED to live this way, but damn if I’m not going to try everything I can to try and make it work. To get geeky on you, I feel like Malcom McDowell from the movie “Star Trek: Generations”; a man who had a taste of a better existence only to be ripped out of it, leaving him obsessed on getting it back. In the movie he blows up some planets in the process, I’m not at that phase yet.
I actually don’t really care how popular or profitable my videos are. I just try to make them as good as I can from my perspective. Some are more for fans, some are ideas I personally really like, but I want to keep making videos no matter what. However, I do care about being able to pay rent and buy groceries. Also, when I’ve had some excess, I’ve offered money to most “long haul” volunteers with the videos also. Looking at that chart, this isn’t going to be possible staying with Machinima’s channel on Youtube, so that’s definitely a part of why I’m leaving.
PLEASE SIGN IN BLOOD
Around the time the views started dropping in 2012, (but before I was notified of it), Machinima.com tried to change its contract terms with me just as I was getting ready to release the next Freeman’s Mind episode. Now I can’t reveal anything that’s in this contract (or my old one), but I will say that in my opinion this was NOT a good contract in terms of rights regarding my videos. It would have turned over so much control to Machinima.com that I don’t think I could sign it even if I was just starting off today. Machinima.com’s standard contract has changed a LOT since I first signed with them and I advise anyone considering signing up with them to read it thoroughly AND get some sort of legal advice. You might be amazed with what it says they can do. I’ve seen some leaked versions of their recent contract before online, and I can say there was a lot more added than what I’ve heard of anywhere else. Prior to this, I almost agreed on a new deal with Machinima.com, but after seeing their new contract, it made me rethink everything I was doing and was a big factor in my decision to leave.
Perhaps the biggest reason I’ve decided to leave is how this mess all went down. There were so many things that went badly. I was only told of the new contract changes by ACCIDENT (I found out later I was supposed to have been informed in November). I didn’t find out about much bigger changes to Youtube and monetization until January (which was also supposed to have been told to me in November). I had a deadline when I had to make a decision by on the videos, but couldn’t get important replies from people prior to that. I had two meetings cut short and one almost cancelled where I needed to get critical information before the deadline. I got relayed to four different people during the process, having to update each new one on what was going on. I needed criticial information from Machinima, but it took MONTHS for them to get back to me on it, with me emailing them every few days. I was told contradicting information with weeks before I could verify anything. When I did receive an initial contract offer, it covered almost nothing of what was agreed upon with the representatives (or refuted it entirely).
Until this was finally resolved yesterday, this whole situation has been an ongoing nightmare for me. My income has crashed, I was stuck in limbo waiting on vital information from Machinima and it felt like everything was moving in slow motion. Meanwhile, fans have been pissed because there are no new videos and I’ve been gradually running out of money. I couldn’t release new videos because the terms had changed and I didn’t have a new offer yet. I couldn’t leave and put videos elsewhere because I needed to hear what their offer was and if there wasn’t proper communication with Machinima.com, they could come shut me down, thinking I was violating my contract, even though I was waiting on them! I don’t think Machinima realized just how much duress this caused me. This should have been resolved in December, January at the latest. It’s outrageous that it ended up going on this long and I think that in itself showed how lightly they took this whole situation. So what was obviously not a high priority for them has been one of the most extended stressful times in my life that I’ve had in years. To be fair, they did propose a decent offer towards the very end, but aside from it not being sustainable, this whole period has left a permanent negative impression on me that I can’t forget. It’s really undermined my trust in the whole organization if I know devastating changes like this can happen at the drop of a hat and I’m powerless to do anything about it for months on end.
LEAVING IN PEACE
While these past few months have left a big impression on me, I don’t want to sound too ungrateful since Machinima.com has really helped me achieve as much popularity as I’ve had over the years. I’ve also personally met a lot of people who work there and most of them seem like good people, some have helped me out a lot. When I was there, only 2-3 people max struck me as possible sociopaths, which is really a low ratio for Los Angeles. I think a lot of what has happened is normal once corporations reach a certain size and I don’t blame any individual that I know of for how this whole thing was handled. I’m really not a revenge-oriented person. Gandhi said he wanted to see the British Empire off as friends after they had been ruling India for decades. That’s kind of the attitude I’m taking towards all this.
So what’s happening now? For the moment, existing videos will still remain on Machinima’s channel. If they get taken down later, I’ll be sure to put them back up somewhere else. I currently have a good lead on a new network to post future videos on, particularly Freeman’s Mind. It depends on how fast everything moves, but it’s my plan to have a new episode up next week. While I have a couple episodes done on Freeman’s Mind, I’m ashamed to say I don’t have a BUNCH ready, I hope you guys forgive me. Once I realized things were going to take a long time with Machinima.com, I started panicking, trying to earn money any way I could to make ends meet (and still am!). I’ve been spending most of my time lately job hunting and working on some side projects to help earn more money that you’ll hear about in the near future. I AM STILL FOR HIRE if you need voice acting, writing, or something else I can do from online. I do hope to be resuming Freeman’s Mind quite soon however and get more videos up as soon as I can. I still plan to make good on my promise of delivering a Freeman’s Mind spree at some point. Sorry for such a long rant, but I’d lose it if I had to keep this all to myself.
More videos are coming soon!
Ross has left Machinima.com! Youtube is turning evil! Machinima.com knows not what it does! New Freeman’s Mind will be coming soon!