Every month Under the Influence showcases influencer talent. To kick off this new format we talk to Arekkz Gaming, created in 2013 by Microsoft alumni Alex ‘Arekkz’ Noon and Matthew ‘TwoSixNine’ Weathers. With its daily flow of content, Arekkz Gaming has gathered an active community of over 700,000 subscribers and amassed over 180 million views since its inception.
You can watch the exclusive video he's recorded for MCV here or read our edited version of the interview below:
How did you get into content creation?
Alex ‘Arekkz’ Noon: Well, first things first, I run the channel with my friend Matthew aka TwoSixNine – in fact starting the channel was his idea. We went to university together, we went to work at Microsoft together and, while working at Microsoft he had the idea to start this channel. Initially, it was more of a hobby, we didn't really know what we wanted to do, so just uploaded gameplay from games that were playing and enjoying at the time and gradually we started to introduce voiceover and a slightly more editorial aspect to our content. We focused primarily on information because this is the sort of stuff that we were passionate about. So you know news on upcoming games or guides, tips, walkthroughs, how to do things... Anything like that, that would sort of help people playing games is essentially what we were going after.
The first couple of years for me were more about me finding my feet because I'd never done something like that before so I didn't necessarily have the confidence to speak on camera. So I would definitely say the first couple of years I wasn't fully set on my love for content creation but then, during my time at Microsoft I left working as a tester and then moved over to the associate producer role on Upload which was the video platform for Xbox One while I was there. I had to do yet more content creation, I did video production, presenting, social media management, account management.
But I think the video aspect of that definitely really helped solidify my love for content creation. I worked with the video team there to help build my confidence when I was on camera and then gradually it just started to become a passion for me. I would go to work and produce videos, I would come home and produce videos. It was basically the only thing that I did all the time so that's definitely how I got into it. And then you know fast forward even further, I left Microsoft and now YouTube is what we both do full time.
What are you looking forward to in the next 12 months in games?
This is a funny question because both this year and last year games that I was most looking forward to basically came out at the beginning of the year.
So I'm a huge Nintendo and Zelda fan, so last year Breath of the Wild and Nintendo Switch came out right at the beginning of the year so I was already happy at the beginning of the year.
And that also applies to this year because Monster Hunter is my other favourite franchise and that just came out, so I've already had my game.
So I'd say the things I'm most looking forward to are probably the things that we don't even know are coming yet, the unknown projects. I'm looking forward to seeing what else Nintendo has for Switch – I'm really hoping for that Smash Bros port as well as new games. I want them to start digging in some of their existing IPs.
On top of that, I'm also looking forward to finding out more about Anthem. Of course there's the obvious ones as well like God of War, Read Dead Redemption 2 but I'd say for me it's definitely the unknown. I'm definitely really keen to see how Nintendo maintain that momentum with the Switch.
Is the channel part of a wider network?
Yes, we are part of Gamer Network, a UK based network comprised of both YouTube channels and games media sites. It's been nice to work really closely with those guys, sort of grow the channel and as part that also worked very closely with the guys over VG 24/7. It’s great to be part of a UK based network so we can still grow things together.
What kind of sponsored content have you worked on?
With regards to sponsored content we are working on or have worked on in the past, I'd say sponsored content is always something we take very seriously but we're also very particular about it. We will only ever work on sponsored content if it's something we genuinely believe in. So, talking about products for example, we are sponsored by HyperX and we do that because they make genuinely good products. If someone says to me 'What's a good headset?' I'll point them directly to HyperX and I do that because they're quality products that I am perfectly happy to work with. The same thing applies for games.
If someone comes to me with the offer of doing a sponsored video for a game, I would do it if it's game that I would normally play or if it's within the spectrum of things I would play. But on the contrary, if someone came to me and said 'Hey will you do a sponsored video for this football game?', chances are I'd probably say no because it's not something I have any knowledge of. It's not something I feel passionate about and it's not nothing I feel I could then honestly go to my audience and say ‘Check this game out’.
Do you work with publishers and developers on upcoming games?
Yes, at least to some extent. So if a game I'm really keen on covering is about to launch, I'll be in touch with the publishers to try and get early review copy because that's a massive help when it comes to content creation just having the time to get video out early. If you can get videos out early then people kind of come to you for that information which is great.
But on top of that it's just from a production point of view if I have a game early it means I can spend time making the videos to get them ready. Whereas it I have to wait till a game launches, there's just this mad rush. So it is really important to have that relationship with publishers and I think that's something I was able to solidify thanks to my time working at Microsoft as well. When I did account management, I learnt very quickly how to work with publishers and developers, and I think that's really benefitted me.
What are the plans for the channel in the future?
Well, we definitely want to expand, to try sort of bring more voices in. So I mentioned at the beginning that I run the channel with TwoSixNine. Matthew does a lot of stuff behind the scenes: SEO, content planning, analytics, as well as livestreaming, whereas I do a lot of the video production. But as we cover more and more games my time gets spread more and more thinly. So we cover a lot of what we call lifestyle games or games as a services, those games that basically never end. You just keep coming back to them and the problem with that is that every time we add a new game like that to the channel, I have even less time to try and become an expert in that game. To try and provide detailed information requires a lot of time and investment and that is where we start to fall short. We're already working with another friend of ours, Welcome To Paradise. He is also a streamer and he's done some videos on the channel already. That's our first step towards the future plans of the channel. Basically try and introduce more voices so we can provide that broader coverage across many more games without necessarily having to sacrifice quality in the process.
So moving forwards, think about Arekkz Gaming more as like a group which will then gradually bring more and more people in and is hopefully going to last.
Arekkz Gaming’s proudest moments
The Arekkz Gaming channel is managed by Henry Clay at Hype Management. For business enquiries, you can get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
To have a look at Arekkz and TwoSixNine's work, follow the links: