Peer Schnieder, co-founder, COO and EVP of IGN, talks about his time at the company and where he sees the industry going. IGN is the biggest games journalism website globally, seeing forty-four million average viewers a month.
I’m a freelance writer and content creator. You can check out my work on my website jackboreham.com
Over the last year, Hackernoon expanded into video game coverage. Hackernoon’s gaming channel has seen hundreds of thousands of views, with fellows writing about a medium they love. IGN is the biggest games journalism website globally, seeing forty-four million average viewers a month.
Many of our video game fellows have been inspired by IGN and its work. I had the pleasure of interviewing Peer Schnieder, co-founder, COO and EVP of IGN, about his time at the company, his passion for games and where he sees the industry going. The questions below came from our gaming community. Check it out here.
What made you want to be part of IGN? Where did your passion for gaming and entertainment start?
“My love for gaming was reignited during my college days in Japan, when my then-girlfriend/now-wife and my best friend gave me a Super Famicom for my birthday. I was instantly taken with how much game design had evolved since the Atari days and became curious about Nintendo and others as a company and as a business.”
“As for movies, I’m classically trained — I watched the best of Hollywood’s Golden Age with my parents in the ‘70s and ‘80s and pursued my passion for foreign cinema during my studies abroad. IGN seemed like a place where I could combine my personal interests with my professional ones. Writing about games for a living didn’t seem like a plausible job when I applied. But then it became my life.”
What podcasts or books do you look to for inspiration?
“Obviously, This American Life is still the gold standard when it comes to audio podcast story-telling, but I also really like what Conan O’Brien is doing with celebrity interviews. That said, I used to be a diligent podcast listener on my long daily commutes to work, but have fallen off while working at home. That may also have something to do with the explosion of genre entertainment on OTT.
There’s barely enough time every day to keep up with the biggest shows on Netflix, HBO, Disney+, and Prime. Conversely, much of today’s popular entertainment is based on the fantasy and sci-fi classics produced decades ago. Modern TV and film adaptations have inspired me to go back and re-read Asimov and Herbert, for example.”
What values do you look for in your writers, and where do you see games journalism going in the next few years.
“We’re interested in continuing to build out a diverse team that fearlessly provides equally diverse viewpoints. In the ‘90s, games media was read mostly by young, male, hardcore gamers — but that has changed significantly over the last decades. Last year, the most popular game on IGN coverage-wise wasn’t a shooter; it was Animal Crossing. It’s important to have an editorial and production team that positively represents the expanded eyes and voices that are now attached to gaming.”
“As for where games journalism is heading, I think it’s crucial that we figure out how to have direct interactions and foster trust with audiences across all the platforms we program. It’s a tall order. We’ve got millions of viewers on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, for example — and the way we engage them and interact with them there may differ from how we talk to our userbase back on our website.”
What has been the biggest challenge in adapting to the ever-evolving gaming industry as a news and media outlet?
“For us, it’s been defending our identity and uniqueness. I don’t think it’s presumptuous to say that IGN has become the template for many games and entertainment sites nowadays. What was once a unique value proposition — the combination of reviews and advice for games, movies, TV, and tech under one brand umbrella — is now a general playbook for so many. I feel good about our expansion to popular video and social platforms, but we’re eager to again show how IGN is different from everyone else in 2022.”
What modern media platform (video essays, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitch etc.) are you most excited about for the future of gaming journalism in addition to–or even in place of–more traditional long-form articles?
“We firmly believe that we need both: quick, informative, and entertaining headlines and deep long-form articles and video features. Last year, we launched additional mini-documentaries, like IGN Inside Stories and Art of the Level, but we also grew our TikTok channel to more than 2 million followers with fun commentary and clips.”
What are the challenges of expanding into other mediums and the perceived differences in how audiences engage with film and TV coverage over video games?
“There are so many different types of gamers and entertainment consumers. There are certain brands and certain celebrities that command huge attention and likes on social media but are avoided or even actively opposed by a different gamer or film fan demographic on another platform. For example, on YouTube, we run a channel called CineFix – IGN Movies & TV where a video essay about Dr. Strangelove can garner hundreds of thousands of views.”
“We’re not even going to attempt leading with that on TikTok or Instagram. With all of that comes the challenge of discovery. There are fantastic pieces of content that are never given their dues since so many platforms depend on algorithms that don’t always put the right content in front of the right user. When it works, it’s a thing of beauty — but we have a long ways to go where content quality and an interesting topic truly guarantees an audience and a positive reaction.”
How do you become an IGN writer?
“By writing a lot, sharing a lot, and not waiting to be asked to write and share a lot.”
With so many gaming writers out there, how do you stand out from the crowd and land a job at IGN?
“Self-publishing content is a must. In order to get a job, writers will have to have freelanced for a few outlets and built up some contacts in the respective industries they cover. But most importantly, they will have shared interesting topics and angles that we hadn’t thought of. Also, it doesn’t hurt to pursue a competency that fills a notable gap, rather than piles on to what the majority knows and is interested in.”
How has video game journalism changed throughout the years?
“It’s certainly matured in that it has moved beyond the “nuts and bolts” of assessing games — like, how good the graphics or the audio experience is — to looking more closely at themes, interpretations, and the social aspects of games. Some of that has naturally formed as games progressed from being arcade experiences to telling stories or advocating for social good, but hiring writers from outside the established games journo circle has also helped here.”
What advice do you have for young journalists who want to get into games journalism?
“Write something every day. Develop a viewpoint. Discover angles that others haven’t thought of. Don’t just rewrite news others have written, focus on follow-ups or leverage data to create new stories. Don’t be rude, but don’t shy away from being critical, either.”
What is your most anticipated game of 2022, and why?
“It’s between God of War Ragnarok and the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”
Image Credit: IGN