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Machinima video network shuts down, laying off 81 employees

Machinima, the vast video #content network which started life in the year 2000 as a site covering short films people made inside games, has shut down and laid off a reported 81 employees. This news is little surprise after Machinima hid most their videos on YouTube in January. This news still sucks for the people who lost their jobs, those who had years of their work vanish from the Internet, and the millions of folks who watched ’em too.

“Machinima has ceased its remaining operations, which includes layoffs,” a Machinima spokesperson said. Deadline note that California employment records show 81 people are losing their jobs. They’re not all entirely gone, as “a select number of Machinima employees remain with the company, which is now actively providing services to supercharge the combined portfolio of Otter Media.”

Supercharge that combined portfolio.

Otter Media is part of American communications giant AT&T, who picked up Machinima as part of buying WarnerMedia. Otter also own fellow former machinima devotees Rooster Teeth and anime streaming service Crunchroll, among others. Machinima sure changed and grew a lot over the years.

Machinima started in 1999 as a site dedicated to the fledgling art of machinima, where folks used games like Quake to make short films. They were clever little things, often made using a combination of custom maps and models, acting, replay editors, and voice acting, and distributed as replay files to be watched in-game. Machinima originally covered films others had made, but grew to fund their own original ones – and started distributing them as videos. This kicked off their explosive growth.

When YouTube started becoming a way to actually make money, Machinima grew to one of the most popular channels with a great many gaming-adjacent dabblings including chatter shows, cartoons, news shows, live-action series promoting games from Terminator Salvation to Mortal Kombat, pranks, and many other things that were not machinima. Before YouTube made it easier for people to partner individually, Machinima were a middleman signing up a great many people up as partners to distribute videos under their banner and give ’em a cut of the cash.

This role became obsolete. Machinima took a big hit in 2013 as rival networks offered partners better deals, then again later when YouTube and Twitch opened up to individuals and networks became largely pointless. But millions of dollars kept on coming from megacorps like Google, Microsoft, and Warner, relying on their original content – which was also increasingly obsolete with the rise of individual #content #creators.

The downfall of Machinima has seemed to be coming for years, but now it’s here it still sucks for people affected. Hiding most of the network’s squillion videos seems a real dick move too. While everyone working online should expect their work to vanish unceremoniously and leave them wondering what they’ve spent years doing, it still sucks when it happens.

I now harbour only a mild residual grudge that Machinima co-opted the term ‘machinima’. Machinima is now so common, and the scripted and unscripted flow so seamlessly across YouTube videos and streams, that it doesn’t have or even need a specific name: it is simply part of the continuum of #content.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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