Written in response to the final episode of All Your History: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN3VqWJQIZg
End of a great YouTube series on gaming history. And now to share my own thoughts about the show.
1. I know the various people who were a part of the show still have ties to Machinima but to say that the the number of people who disliked the change in the show’s direction is a minority is a HUGE understatement. This is the only time I’ve ever seen an unpopular change in a YouTube series/channel result in:
- repeated downvotes (almost outnumbering the upvotes on a weekly basis which is unheard of),
- endless negative comments (deserved or not and oftentimes removed by Machinima even when comments were informative about the change in the show’s style),
- and a large enough drop in viewership (subscriber count + the effect of poorly liked shows on YouTube which will effect the parent channel) that a series was actually cancelled.
So let me make this clear. I have no negative feeling towards any of the show creators (even Chris Lockey), but saying the dislikes were a minority is being dishonest. Sure it may be a technical minority (< 50%) but it clearly was > 40% due to the like counts and comment ratio (and estimated drop in subscribers), but this group of fans deserve to be labelled as an important part of the viewership. Hell for all you know, the other 60% may be a 30/30 split between positive and neutral making the “minority” an actual majority. So don’t play the PR game and call those viewers a minority. Minorities do not get shows cancelled.
2. As a representative of the quiet masses who were willing to let Season 5 cook for a while before returning, I gotta say that yes, we noticed the change in Season 4. The main reason why many didn’t speak up about the slight change in style was because we saw it as a positive change and it did not deviate from the spirit of the show. As Brian & Brian combo even said, they mostly kept to the same style even though they made a few changes. It is human nature to be quiet and not speak up when changes aren’t bad.
Season 5, on the other hand, did not take a gradual approach. It made a huge change in style from the start which was bad for several reasons. Many of them are actually terrible business decisions so I’m not sure how those changes were approved.
- Abrupt change with very little lead in will always generate harsh feedback. Unless you’ve tested your changes against focus groups to make sure they are actually positive in the long run, it is a terrible business idea to make such large changes at once. Examples? See any fucking big change to a website, TV Show, comic, etc. EVER. You use Facebook, right? Remember all those times they made huge changes to their UI, privacy settings, etc. and the negative feedbad that caused? Yeah, that is what you should expect. The difference between All Your History Season 5 and Facebook? Facebook does a shit load of testing and even does a small beta rollout to random users over time to fix things before going all out.
- To cut staff down to one person and expect them to maintain quality is simply a poor business decision. It reeks of cost cutting and greed. The quality of every aspect of the show is guaranteed to go down by doing this so I’m not sure how Machinima expected the show to keep subscribers going into Season 5.
- If you cut staff, it is generally a safe business decision to stick to the tried and true until changes stabilize. So telling Lockey to go with his style from the start is again, a terrible business decision. Example? I’ve been in 2 companies that downsized. During periods where we downsized, we put any huge features involving major changes to our product were delayed just so we could make sure we can maintain the same quality of our current product. It’s just safe business practice.
- The changes to the show were across the board – intro, narrator, writing, show content/focus, and production style. If you are going to change everything, you might as well change the title too because that is all that is left of the spirit of the show. This is essentially a new series at this point so using the name “All Your History” is a pretty goddamn poor business decision. You are telling your fanbase to expect one thing while providing a completely different product. NOT SMART BUSINESS!
Seriously, I 100% bet that if Machinima allowed Brian & Brian to continue the show using whatever hypothetical changes they wanted to make, the change in narrator to Chris Lockey would not have been all that negative. In fact, since those two proved they understand the audience, I bet their changes would have worked out in the long run and have had a better chance at increasing viewership (clearly the goal of Machinima). So I’m very curious to hear from Machinima why those two were not allowed to execute their vision for Season 5.
3. I can tell that some of the people previously involved with making All Your History did not agree with the changes either. Of course, their responses are going to be politically safe and not bash the show outright but your feelings show in your responses when taken as a whole. It’s not my place to tell you how to answer questions, but I will say this, “Thank you for putting your heart and soul into the show.”
Bet you didn’t expect that right? Seriously, thank you guys for making the show. Anyone asking you guys to come back are being selfish. Hell, Chris Lockey probably isn’t that bad a guy and even I most likely fall on the “dislike” him side of his polarizing personality. However, it’s not his fault. If there is anyone to blame, I put the blame solely on Machinima for making poor business decisions that anyone with half a brain could tell would lead to the death of the show. So fuck you Machinima!
4. As a response to mainy of the YouTube commenters who are angry at seeing the show end – guess what? Ending the show was the goal of the negative fanbase. After the first few episodes, the responses illicited from Lockey and Talbert, and the realization that the changes were here to stay, negative fans decided that taking the dog out back and shooting it was the most humane thing to do. And that is why the dislikes and negative comments kept rolling in. No one is sorry that the show was cancelled. That was the goal. If you are going to be angry at anyone, be angry at Machinima for all the reasons I stated above. The show was primed for failure and that is what happened.
5. Lastly, I’d like to point out a key “draw in” factor about the show that the creators, crew, YouTube commenters, and really everyone missed. I haven’t seen a single person post this yet. As much as the style, informative nature of the show, narration, and quality were important to the show’s success, there is one other factor that drew in AND kept the current audience. Nostalgia. This is a show about gaming history. One of the things viewers of our type enjoy is reliving games from our past, learning things we didn’t know about them, and hearing about what the legacy of those games ended up being. Current games are simply not going to be as interesting to watch in a documentary as games from the past because nostalgia hasn’t built up and you aren’t going to be able to draw any good conclusions about the legacy of those games.
The fact that no one has brought this up in the final two episodes is a bit disappointing. It makes me think that everyone avoided pointing this out because it would show how big a fuck up Season 5 was because the shift in style ignored this very important “draw in” factor about the series. It is why the style from Season 1-4 was so successful. Keeping an old school feel was essential to providing the type of atmosphere that made viewers feel like they were reliving their past. I feel like this change was something one or two people were itching to say but didn’t for PR reasons (and I’m ok with that). But I feel like this really needs to be said and should be something for the clueless business people at Machinima to think about.
For my final farewell to All Your History, I’ll say one last thing:
“Thank you for being the most informative gaming history show I’ve ever watched. It is rare for a show to be both entertaining and enlightening but you managed to stick to fulfilling those two principles for 4 full seasons. That is amazing and this series will be sorely missed.”