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UPDATE: GodGames Turns From Video Games to SubstanceTV DVD Magazine

20 Aug, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi

Texas-based independent videogame publisher GodGames will hand over its video game brand and game catalog to majority owner Take-Two Interactive at the end of this month, turning its attention to a new DVD-based digital video magazine, SubstanceTV.

Founded in 1998 by Mike Wilson, Harry Miller, Jim Bloom and Rick Stults, the Gathering of Developers sought to put the power of video game publishing and development into the hands of the creators. The group raised $22.5 million in funding and published 12 games during its run, including Max Payne, which is heading to TV and film. The company, which was developed PC games, was hurt when the industry shifted to a console business and several of its big games needed additional development time.

“In the course of two and a half years, we established a video game brand that’s recognized worldwide and helped establish the creative talent as the driving force behind the gaming industry,” said Mike Wilson, former c.e.o. of GodGames and current c.e.o. and publisher of SubstanceTV. “Today, video game development studios are featured prominently on box covers. We’ve also tried to enlighten game developers on how to cut a good deal with gaming companies so they’re not slaughtered at contract time.”

Wilson said that although it’s still possible to create an independent video game label in today’s market, the costs have skyrocketed and the playing field, which was once wide open, is now dominated by five or six powerful studios, much like Hollywood and the record industry.

Now the founding members of GodGames are looking to give independent filmmakers, up-and-coming musicians and aspiring digital video journalists a medium to hit the 17+ adult demographic that grew up playing video games but is also interested in lifestyle features.

SubstanceTV launches in November and will be packaged in a standard DVD case. Each disc will include about 2? hours of content. A 10-issue yearly subscription will cost $14.95, which Wilson said pays for the shipping and packaging. Early talks are underway with retailers about bringing the DVD magazine to store shelves, possibly as a bundle.

“With CD-ROM magazines of the past, you were asking consumers to sit in front of a computer to get information on music or other topics,” said Wilson. “There’s so much more you can do with a DVD and you’re asking people to sit in front of a TV, where they get entertainment in the first place.

“With digital video and letterbox presentations and quality sound, we’re providing a new venue for the creative, the musicians who’s videos would never air on MTV, the documentary, indie and short filmmakers who have only the Internet as an outlet, and feature journalists who are fed up with the watered-down content of broadcast TV news and magazine programs,” he said.

The magazine will rely on advertising for revenue, including director’s cuts of TV commercials and movie trailers and ads for video games. Wilson hopes to serve an older, intelligent subscriber audience of 200,000 consumers by the end of this year, which he hopes to broaden to one million subscribers by the end of 2002. Subscriptions will be sold via Substance.tv and an 800 number, which will be established this fall.

“Our older demographics also allows us to tap into advertising revenue from the alcohol and tobacco industries, while giving video game publishers and movie studios a new outlet for promoting Mature-rated games and R-rated movies, especially with the crackdown on broadcast television and print ad restrictions that are hitting these industries. We’ll have HBO-style freedom with our content, presenting our materials in a hard-hitting way.”

Wilson, 30, hopes artists opt for the DVD medium, which offers rich video and sound experience, rather than hoping that someone downloads a short film off the Internet. He’s also looking forward to revealing the inner workings of the video game industry.

“I’d like to bring our experience and expertise with the gaming industry to a documentary-style feature that would introduce the mass market to game development,” said Wilson. “The media’s done a really bad job of showing the creativity and work that goes into video games. You only hear about games in relation to Columbine.”

SubstanceTV has 30 employees, 26 formerly of GodGames, and has headquarters in Austin, Texas, with satellite offices in Dallas, New York and Los Angeles.

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