Machinima was one of the most well-known names in the Youtube gaming community for a huge portion of the platform’s history. Where the current youth have been brought up on reaction videos and PewDiePie wannabes, over a decade ago an entire generation of gamers grew up watching various Machinima videos and channels to get their passive, video-game related fix.
Although no longer prominent (and honestly almost entirely defunct), Machinima had a long, successful run on Youtube and at one point they directly employed 200 people to create hundreds of hours of content for viewers to enjoy every year, allowing them to produce a wide range of shows to millions of subscribers.
Before it was ever a Youtube network, and before even Youtube itself, Machinima (originally known as “machinima”, a portmanteau of “machine” and “cinema”) was a term used by the video-making community to describe videos that use and manipulate video-games to create video content to be used as a base for creating a wide range of content, from skits to fairly serious “animated” dramas.
In January 2000, Machinima was founded as a website that would act as a hub for Machinima content, where a huge part of the Machinima community would come to share their work and even featured original content such as articles about the community and more general articles about related technology.
A force for the community
Even in its early days, the website helped bring attention to the Machinima community and helped justify it as an art form in its own right, as the community had run into some legal issues when Id Software, the publisher of the most commonly used games to create machinima, threatened legal action against anyone who leaked code which was integral to creating high-quality machinima.
A new platform
Luckily, this change in focus for the community worked out, and soon after Youtube was launched in 2005, Machinima created a channel network to fund many dozens of creators to make Machinima, in exchange for exclusivity to their network. This proved to be an incredibly lucrative move, as suddenly many people who loved this art-form could now earn a decent wage doing what they love, leading to rapid advancement in the field and a great increase in the quality and quantity of the content.
How to dominate the space
In 2012, Machinima was the 4th most subscribed channel on Youtube and hosted legendary shows such as “GamerPoop” and “Inside Gaming”. For a while, it was difficult to watch gaming-related videos and not see their iconic logo crawl at the beginning. They continued to rise in subscribers over the next few years, eventually peaking at over 16 million, with no sign of slowing down, even securing millions of dollars in funding from Warner Bros. and eventually securing a sale of Machinima to the entertainment giant.
The highs and lows of production
During this time between 2012 and 2016, Machinima continued to rise in prominence in the gaming world, but during this time an increasing number of its 5,000 partners started to speak out about Machinima’s incredibly controlling contracts which limited any creators if they decided to make content outside of the network.
There was further controversy with shady advertising deals involving paid promotion from Microsoft which creators were contractually banned from disclosing, which eventually caught the eye of the FCC, showing the world that this is not the correct way to run a youtube marketing campaign, and actually led to Youtube altering their terms of service to stop it happening again.
Unfortunately, after fading largely into memory over the late 2010s, the company ceased all public operations in 2019, but their influence and legacy will likely continue for years to come, as they helped foster a huge and creative community that has gone on to create some great things since.