Getting serious about Retronauts

Hi everyone, Jeremy here. You’ve probably seen my announcement at USgamer, but in case you find it all tl;dr for your liking, here’s the brief: I’m stepping down as editor-in-chief of USgamer and will be focusing on… well, a variety of different things, actually. But for starters, I’d like to try and turn Retronauts into a true and proper venture.

Retronauts was never meant to be just a podcast. As I mentioned in our recent 10th anniversary episode, the podcast was really just a lark; I was already writing a series called Retronauts for my personal blog and simply borrowed the name for a 1UP.com audio show I expected to flop immediately and die in ignominy. Obviously that didn’t happen, thanks to the support of both listeners (thank you!) and contributors alike, and we’re still going strong a decade later. Still, I always wanted Retronauts to be a full website with a wide variety of written and video material to supplement the audio content. I’ve broached the idea with management at every company I’ve worked under over the past 10 years, but it never quite made sense to them; everyone has always said game history is too niche a topic to be a self-sustaining venture within a corporate/network setting.

I’m grateful that Gamer Network continued letting me and Bob run Retronauts on the side and even let us post the show to USgamer each week, but it’s still been stuck as a weekends-only side project. And I get it. Maybe Retronauts wouldn’t work as part of a publishing network portfolio. But just possibly, I feel, it can work for some people working on their own. Let’s find out.

Beginning in the new year, I hope to see what happens when I make Retronauts my primary day-to-day concern. Our listeners (that’s you) have been incredibly generous for the past few years, supporting us through Patreon to make it possible for us to produce a professional-quality podcast in our free time. Now, I’d like to push for enough funding to make Retronauts a sustainable full-time venture — to go full-pro. I’m proud of what we do by simply moonlighting, but imagine how much more we could do if this were to become a daily concern. I don’t know if that’s actually possible, if enough people want us to explore video game history to enable us to make a proper go of it, but I’m wagering my livelihood that it can.

Here’s what that means:

  • Plans for Retronauts: We’ve changed our Patreon campaign goals and reward tiers to position Retronauts to become a proper venture. Over the weekend, we hit our funding goal for bringing daily posts to this blog, which will kick off in the new year. Next up for goals, we have more live events, then weekly (rather than biweekly) episodes, followed by more ambitious goals like adding weekly Retronauts Micro episodes to the mix and publishing a regular print periodical (those of you who remember my old GameSpite Quarterly project, think something along those lines).
  • Videos, too: I will be rolling my personal video Patreon campaign into this as well. Game Boy World and Good Nintentions (et al.) are basically Retronauts in spirit, if not in name. I’ve kept them separate to avoid confusion, mainly because “Retronauts” implies a collaboration between myself and Bob. But Bob is on board with all of this and given his blessing to my ideas, including rolling these video projects into the site, and so now these two Patreons will exist in parallel to determine how we focus our efforts. The Retronauts Podcasts campaign will enable collaborative podcasts, event travel, and the development of this website. The Retronauts Video Chronicles campaign will enable in-depth video features like Game Boy World, along with the documentation and preservation the featured games.
  • What about Bob?: Yes, I made the movie reference so you don’t have to. Bob’s role in Retronauts will remain unchanged: He’ll produce a couple of episodes per month and co-host the episodes I produce. The changes to reward tiers and the additional funding we hope to bring in means he’ll finally be able to pocket some money for his efforts, which will be great. Again, we’re of one mind on these ambitions… but Bob just started a great new job at Fandom and moonlights on several other podcasts, so he doesn’t really have a lot of additional bandwidth for Retronauts. I’m going to be the one to spearhead the new components of our venture, while Bob will contribute as usual and will continue to have an equal say in the creative direction of the show. We’re partners in this here crime.
  • Let’s talk about money: Yes, let’s! Before we revised reward tiers over the weekend, these two campaigns were bringing in almost exactly $5000/mo. After taxes, expenses, etc., the Retronauts campaign was basically break-even, while the video campaign was netting about $600/mo. The great thing is, our expenses are largely set, so all that will scale up as we raise more money will be taxes and reward fulfillment expenses (which themselves will be much less costly — which is to say, much less wasteful — under our new tier structure). I’ve spent a lot of time sorting out the math, and the magic number for this venture is $10,000/mo. combined between the two campaign — that’s the point at which we bring in enough to cover expenses, rewards, and taxes while still netting enough that I can devote most of my time to Retronauts and still have a roof to live under (and Bob can be paid for his time as well). $12,500/mo. is an even more magical number, since that’s the point at which this makes sense as a proper job for me and I won’t have to dabble in other work to enjoy perks like “food” and “health insurance.” At $15,000/mo., things would get really interesting, since there would then be what amounts to a freelance budget. Dare we dream?
  • This seems like a lot of irons in the fire: Yeah, if somehow both of these campaigns somehow improbably hit their maximum goals, that would amount to three weekly podcasts, three weekly videos, several other videos each month, rewards, a website, books, live events, and more. That’s way too much for one full-timer and one part-time contributor, for sure. But at that point, we’d also be earning nearly $25,000/mo. and could afford to pay people to help out. I’ve laid these goals out in a way that balances income with output, and however the funding happens (assuming it happens at all), the point at which Bob and I become overwhelmed is also the point at which we can afford to seek help. Like I said, I’ve spent a lot of time working on the math. The first step in this direction comes with the weekly full-length podcast goal of $5200: At that point, we’ll be able to afford to launch a monthly “Retronauts East” installment featuring some of my friends here in the RDU area, bringing their expertise on topics Bob and I don’t know well (Commodore, Atari, etc.) to the show.
  • What if the funding doesn’t come through?: Well, then we’ll know I was wrong and everyone else was right, that Retronauts is too niche to succeed (or maybe people just aren’t that interested in our opinions on classic games specifically). But I’m hoping for the best. Making Retronauts into a successful, standalone venture has been my dream for a decade now, and I really want to make it happen. If it doesn’t, well, I’ll find a “real” job and we’ll continue moonlighting with Retronauts.
  • When would all of this new stuff start?: I’m signed on with USgamer through the end of January. So, while we’d start ramping up in our free time throughout January, you can expect to see “all of this new stuff” begin in earnest at the outset of February (assuming we can hit those goals, obviously). We’ll start by giving this blog a much-needed visual overhaul.
  • So, ahem, Kickstarter…: Yeah, we still have some outstanding obligations from the 2013 Kickstarter campaign, and those promises are at the top of my 2017 hit list. The books are printed and sitting in my storage closet; artwork is complete and ready to send out; and all our DVD material has been produced (and shared digitally with backers). All we’re lacking is a brief live introductory segment for the DVD, which we were planning to film at our recording session last month. Unfortunately, Bob came down with the flu and missed taping that day (we were going to record right after this episode). We’ll tape it at our Jan. 21 recording session instead, and I’ll wrap up and produce the DVDs immediately after. It’s happening, honest!

So, there you have it. We want to get serious about Retronauts, and we’ll need your help to make it possible. I’m taking a huge chance here, a leap of faith, but I truly believe in what we’re doing here — and in what we can do, with enough support. The name “Retronauts” was meant to suggest the concept of exploring the past, of connecting gaming’s present to its history, but practical limitations have always prevented us from truly fulfilling that mission. Here’s hoping that we can put aside those limitations in 2017.

(Personally, nothing would make me happier than hitting the Retronauts Journal goal and the two weekly videos goal. But I ultimately just want to make good on this concept, whatever form it takes.)

If all of this sounds good to you, please consider supporting the Retronauts podcast and/or video projects via Patreon! Even a dollar helps push us toward our grand schemes.

Thanks to everyone who has helped keep the show going through the years, either with funding or simply by listening and sharing. Here’s to another 10 years!

40 Comments

Filed under Retronauts

40 Responses to Getting serious about Retronauts

  1. BearChair

    Added an extra $1 for the $6 tier. Best of luck to you guys.

  2. Boom

    Welp, just found the podcast a few weeks ago but I guess I’m out already. Good luck, but no thanks.

    • We’re still making a free podcast?

    • Yokairobo

      This comment…Is strange.

    • Ken

      They’ve got 10 years of free podcasts under their belts… and still offering free podcasts in the future. What about this has rubbed you in the wrong way? Just because you’re new doesn’t mean that they haven’t put in the work to see if people want to fund their goals.

    • Robert

      Genius comment.

    • Slothy

      I don’t normally comment but wow, what kind of comment is that to say? “Welp, just found the podcast a few weeks ago but I guess I’m out already. Good luck, but no thanks.”. Wtf?

      I read it and reread it, and still it makes no sense. Oh well.

      I LOVE Retronauts, but I am guilty of not supporting it financially. I will start doing so for the new year.

  3. Super excited for you guys. When I saw the email headline I was going to make a glib joke about how Jeremy hates podcasts but is now dedicating himself to one full-time, but now it all makes sense.

    I had to stop donating to the Patreon a while back (I had a baby and it turns out they’re expensive) but I hope to start giving again soon.

    I think a full time Retronauts is perfectly viable because none of us are getting any younger.

    • I only get grumpy about Retronauts sometimes because I know it could be better if we could devote more time to it. This is the way to do that! Hopefully.

      • Slothy

        I totally understand Jeremy’s position about other podcasts. I love creating music…but strangely I rarely listen to music on my free time.

        Someone who paints could care less about other works, it’s not an odd thing, in fact it can free the constraints of the preset molds.

  4. Graeme Buchan

    This is fantastic news guys! I for one will definitely be increasing my Patreon pledge. Excited for the new content going forward! Congrats!

  5. TheBigSnit

    Wow. I was hoping something like this would transpire. Now that it has I don’t know what to say…other then- good luck, I know you will find success.

    As an avid listener I look forward to whatever topics you plan to cover in the new year.

  6. Guy Incognito

    Apologies if all these new and exciting plans are covered in an upcoming episode, but I think another “State of the Podcast”-type address would reach the largest portion of your listenership.

    You probably already thought of this but I just want you guys to succeed!

  7. smisk

    Wow this is big news, congrats Jeremy! I’ve been a huge fan of your work ever since I discovered Retronauts a few years ago, and even if I don’t watch every GBW video, I think what you’re doing is incredibly important for gaming as a whole.
    I’ll definitely kick in a few bucks a month.

  8. Hell yeah!! Let’s do this shit!!!

    Lol…so I’m a have to say goodbye to some of the other people I support, though.

  9. Chris Taran

    Excited for where things go. Been listening since day 1 at 1UP and plan on sticking around for as long as you guys are doing it!

  10. Finding Retronauts was a revelation for me: There *ARE* other people that care about old games! I look forward to each new episode and they do not disappoint.

    I’m glad to see that you’re looking to make it even better, and I look forward to continuing to support everything about it.

    Thanks for the wonderful 10 years so far. I hope all of your ambitions can come true.

  11. Sounds exciting! Can hardly wait to see what happens next!

  12. Souther

    Honest question:

    Will it be possible to buy any of the upcoming Retronauts print publications separately from the Patreon?

    I really hope so!

  13. Ray

    I seriously want to start donating to this, I love this idea. I have one completely odd issue though. I guess I somehow offended Bob Mackey at some point and he blocked me on Twitter. If I could just hear from him, and find out why (he doesn’t even need to unblock me), I would gladly start donating. I know it’s an odd request, but if I am gonna put money to a project I like, I would like to at least know why I drew the ire of someone whose work I admire.

    • I can’t speak for Bob, but I find that tone doesn’t always communicate correctly online. You probably said something in jest that seemed a lot more insulting/hostile coming from a stranger than intended.

      • Ray

        Which is definitely a shame, but you’re correct. Alright, i’ll just live with it, because I definitely want to contribute to this. Best of luck to you in this new venture.

        • I can unblock you since you’re coming to me in good faith. Just let me know your Twitter name.

          • Ray

            @Raysgamingrants It’s a dumbass name I know. I think I may even know what I may have said that may have caused this. It was when you were talking about Dennis Dyack, I remember saying “Come on Bob Mackey, you’re better than this.” I meant that you’re literally above him as a person, not that I was annoyed you were saying it. If this is what did it, I am sorry for wording it poorly. If it is something else, I apologize for whatever that is.

  14. Dalton W.

    Expanding Retronauts is definitely something I’m excited for. I still have some of the old Lunch Break videos kicking around on my computer (right next to Shame Night and that video of Sam Kennedy flipping people off in a Wii Remote costume), so the idea of branching out and getting more content sounds lovely. Will be helping to support it when I can.

  15. Josh

    You guys are one of the reasons I started my own podcasts as well as discovering the world of podcasts. I’m so excited about where you and Bob are taking this. As soon as I am able to contribute to patreon I will(money is tight, being an adult is hard). Thank you for continuing this show and I look forward to the future!

  16. Bernie

    I would like to increase my patreon pledge, but I have to insist that Bob blocks me on twitter first.

  17. matt

    that 15k magic number which would give you guys money for freelance. is it ok if i just assume that means “we can pay ray to contribute ‘Scroll’ type content to the new retronauts website? because that’s what i’m going to assume, anyway!

  18. Meho

    Welp, I just became a patreon on both campaigns. Retronauts is a cherished product-slash-service to me and being able to have a full episode every week is too good an offer to pass on. Best of luck, boys!

  19. Mel

    Good luck on meeting your goals. If I could kick in money, I would!

    And, personally, I liked the previous site design better. Maybe just because it wasn’t so sparse.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the new output from you two! If I’m able to contribute, it would be the first Patreon account I support.

  20. Congrats Jeremy and Bob. I live in a not so developed country and can’t contribute on a regular basis.

    I suggest that you somehow make a one time Paypal donation button (like this http://www.dailytechnewsshow.com/support/) aside from the Patreon thing.

    This is actually good for people like me who can’t assist monthly, but can spare a few bucks here and there. It’s also good to have this as like a petty cash collection box where you can dip into when you need to.

    Not sure what you think about this.

  21. As someone who wants to really get his own podcast up and running, I’ll support you all as much as I can. Best of luck! I know forcing yourself to be more independent is hard, but it’s clear that the Retronauts team really cares about this product. Looking forward to the future!