The road less travelled – Kotaku’s new editorial direction

Once upon a time, the traditional media was the gatekeeper for information about video games.

Now consumers have thousands of places where they can get their news from, such as Twitter or direct-to-consumer publisher blogs.

Last year Kotaku changed its editorial policy to focus on post-release coverage. Rather than chasing the news, preview and review cycle, writers were tasked with covering individual titles or brands after launch.

This new direction appears to make sense. Personalities such as PewDiePie have millions of people viewing videos from older games like EA’s 2010 title Skate 3, which as a result returned to the charts. So it’s clear that there’s an audience for older titles.

Kotaku is trying to cover games in a way that reflects how people play them,” Kotaku UK editor Keza MacDonald tells MCV.

Games journalism has changed so massively. Being the gatekeeper for information and opinion on games is no longer the most interesting thing the media can do. What happens after a game comes out is usually far more interesting than whatever we are told is going to happen before a game comes out.”

She continues: It frees you from that publisher and marketer-driven beat of covering a game, which actually has started to feel very formulaic. Our job is no longer to report what we are being told to, it’s to go searching for stories in the player population.”

In practice, this means that writers are given more time to pursue their own projects, rather than focusing on the publisher-driven news cycle.

Every writer has to balance large, interesting features that are rewarding and smaller bits of news and things that have to be covered,” MacDonald explains.

The way Kotaku works is everyone is on a news shift for no more than two days a week. That leaves time for them to work on their projects, usually something to do with their embed or a bigger story they are working on.”

And Kotaku’s readers have responded well to this new direction.

The reaction from our audience has been very positive,” MacDonald says.

Our new approach has made our coverage more accessible to those who don’t follow games day in, day out. An interesting story about a game that’s two years old is just as interesting as a game that came out last month. A feature about Pokmon’s Lavender Town – a ten or 15-year mystery – will be more accessible and interesting to a wider number of people than a story about a game that’s been out for a month.”

Shifting its focus to post-release editorial isn’t the only major change – Kotaku now no longer conforms to post-release review embargoes.

More people are moving towards this attitude. We’re going to review it properly,” MacDonald says. There’s been this thing in the media where people rush to an embargo and try to get everything up as fast as they can. We find that these don’t matter. We put our Destiny review up two weeks after release and we saw no drop off in traffic. People are as interested in a review of a game when it’s been out for a few days or even a week later.”

She concludes: The media has realised that embargoes mean far more to us than our readers. They don’t mind if we hit embargo. They’d rather we did something properly. They don’t mind that they’re reading a review late."

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