The mood was somber yet optimistic when I sat down to interview Greg Miller. He, along with three other friends, quit their jobs at IGN earlier this month to launch Kinda Funny, an online hub for podcasts, play-throughs, Oreo Cookie reviews, and the team’s latest opinions on gaming. But there’s still one big question on everyone’s mind: Why would these four men leave IGN? The Daily Dot caught up with Miller recently to try and figure that out.
“I wanted to write about video games forever, let alone at IGN, the No. 1 site… It has been a dream for eight years,” Miller said. “Somewhere along the line, that changed.”
With Kinda Funny, the idea is to bring fans content and entertainment directly, without any corporate filters. It’s the cachet of their own personalities that they’re trying to capitalize on. While it’s definitely a risky move, Miller and his team feel confident enough to go all in—even if that means leaving a stable salary with benefits.
Back in 2012, Miller recognized the power of YouTube and started his own channel called GameOverGreggy. When he told IGN that he was going to start making his own content, it caught the company by surprise, but Greg assured IGN that these were just funny YouTube videos about things outside of gaming—things that his bosses “wouldn’t want,” like talking to pal Colin Moriarty “about ants.” IGN let Miller continue his YouTube channel as long as his gaming discussion remained exclusively at IGN.
What Miller didn’t expect to see was the rapidity with which his YouTube channel grew, with many of his fans from IGN eagerly following him over to see his review on Birthday Cake Oreos. Eventually, Moriarty and Miller started the GameOverGreggy Show, a weekly video podcast with producer and cameraman Tim Gettys and Nick Scarpino. The show continued to grow, and it racked up more and more fans.
In October, the team rebranded as Kinda Funny and launched a Patreon. Patreon is a crowdfunding site in which people can become patrons of a project and donate on a monthly basis. As of the time of publication, the Kinda Funny Patreon is raking in over $17,000 a month.
This patronage model is far from new. Rooster Teeth, another major geek media production house (disclosure: Rooster Teeth is a video partner of the Daily Dot), really pioneered the idea of taking direct monetary support from its most ardent of fans. With that, Rooster Teeth has expanded and grown immensely. Miller says he sees Rooster Teeth as one of his role models: “We literally are them before they got super successful.”
All along, the team had been managing both working at IGN and making Kinda Funny content on the side, but they were starting to feel that dividing attention between the two projects was getting to be rather exhausting, and it was “the Kinda Funny stuff that was suffering.”
Lest they ever get to the point where they weren’t giving IGN their “all,” the team made an important decision: Miller realized that “Kinda Funny would be their only jobs.” The team knew that they would part ways from IGN eventually; they “just didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did.”
It wasn’t a choice the team took lightly. Miller had been with IGN since his early 20s, with Moriarty connected with the site since he was 18. Scarpino had been with the site for 10 years, working as producer of video content, and Gettys started as a video intern, which evolved into a full-time job over the course of the last five years. When it comes to jobs on the Internet, these are rather long tenures. The site had given all four of them so much, and it had helped propel them to Internet fame and celebrity.
Not only that, but working for a site like IGN isn’t your typical cubicle job. There’s reportedly a lot of creative collaboration, and Miller says he wanted to work at IGN for the rest of his life. So leaving IGN was like leaving family. “Every day was a vacation there; every day was working with your best friends,” Miller said. “It’s bittersweet leaving, for sure.”
On Jan. 5, when Miller, Moriarty, Scarpino, and Gettys announced that they had quit IGN, the video game portion of the Internet went crazy. The story quickly began trending on r/games, N4G, and NeoGAF.
— Greg Miller (@GameOverGreggy) January 5, 2015
For Miller, “it was humbling.” He says he was “so blown away” by the respect with which the announcement was handled, “and then let alone everyone reacted so positively.”
Jan. 5 was also when the team launched a second Patreon for Kinda Funny Games. It was a rather contentious decision, one that Miller and Moriarty felt would be met with “backlash.” The two were worried about “hurting the feelings” of their fans that supported them on the first Patreon. Meanwhile Miller wanted to make sure that fans from the first Patreon got their money’s worth, and Gettys was “pushing hard for two Patreons from the beginning.” Even the Patreon team assured the Kinda Funny gang that “other podcasts do that.”
Gettys and Patreon were right. At the time of publication, the Kinda Funny Games Patreon is bringing in over $22,000 a month. It’s clear that there’s a huge demand for the team’s gaming content.
But even if both Patreons combined bring in almost $500,000 a year, it’s still going to be a difficult ride. Polygon’s Ben Kuchera broke down the real cost of going indie, when that $500,000 is divided between four men and decimated by Patreon fees, taxes, expenses, and more. It all adds up rather quickly.
Doing Kinda Funny full-time is like “E3 every day” according to Miller. The team is putting in a tremendous amount of time and work, more than they were at IGN. In terms of hour-to-pay ratio, it’s quite likely the team is making less than they were while at IGN, at least according to Kuchera. Granted, now things are on their terms.
The question on everyone’s mind when they heard Miller and Moriarty would be quitting was what would be the fate of Podcast Beyond. The show, which has been going on for the past six years with over 370 episodes, is IGN’s most downloaded podcast, with over 1 million plays a month.
This conversation went “back and forth for a long time” between Miller and IGN. Clearly the podcast has been a huge success, with an enormous family of dedicated fans. “Should we do it at all” was the question that was going back and forth between Miller and Moriarty as they drank bourbon late into the night. Should they try and buy Podcast Beyond from IGN, or just quit and never do an episode again?
So far, IGN has allowed Miller and Moriarty to continue Podcast Beyond “to be there for the kids.” Currently they are making episodes on a freelance basis, slowly weaning listeners off of Miller and Moriarty and toward the idea that other IGN editors eventually will be taking over and making the show their own.
It’s surprising how well things are going for Kinda Funny. Not only were they able to part ways with IGN on their terms, the team is already able to start accomplishing their goals. Currently on its Patreon, the team has added stretch goals for Scarpino and Gettys’ ideas, including top 10 shows, skits, and an animated pilot—all things that would have been difficult to get greenlit at IGN.
The outpouring of support from the Kinda Funny community has been outstanding. Many fans have sent the team résumés and offered free website building or assistance in video editing. There’s clearly a lot of love for the team, and fans really do not want to see Kinda Funny fail.
With platforms like YouTube and Patreon, content creators do not have to cater to major studios or development houses. The cachet of the independent creator is stronger than ever, and Kinda Funny team is showing just how far they can go on their own.
Photo courtesy of Kinda Funny