Future’s Binns on his new publishing company Network N

Former Future publishing exec James Binns has announced his new new publishing company Network N.

Here he writes about the launch of PCGamesN.com: what’s changed, what’s big and what gamers really want…

The game has changed. We all know that.

Audiences changed, playing fewer games for longer, demanding more.

Games changed, offering deeper, more complex, shared experiences.

Publishers changed, focusing on a smaller basket of franchises.

Marketing changed, with a focus on constant, targeted, social, direct-to-customer engagement.

Business changed, with revenue models moving from short term hits to lifetime value. Distribution got really easy, as long as you didn’t go through a shop. Discovery got really hard. Yup. It all changed.

The games media didn’t and hasn’t changed enough. Media dare not admit that games are bigger than media. Much bigger. On any scale game franchises dominate – whether it’s search volume, time spent, revenue or brand awareness.

But media’s start point is that they are the story and they cover games in general… rather than specific games. And that defines everything about how they behave, their site navigation, community strategy and editorial team structure.

Traditional game sites build content around publisher asset drops. But that’s rarely what gamers care about.

Look at Steam stats or the most played games on Xbox Live, and you’ll see gamers are playing titles like Football Manager, Total War, DOTA 2, MW3, Counterstrike, Halo and Battlefield. Check the games media today and these titles are mostly invisible. The games media isn’t talking about the games people are playing. And, that’s odd. So…

After 18 years as a journalist, then a publisher, I left Future and brands like PC Gamer, CVG and Edge, because I felt there was a better way to produce games media. I’ve launched Network N. Yes, N stands for Network. And yes, that joke already feels old.

Network N will launch independent fan channels around the biggest franchises. We will show our audience the best, new stuff, about the things they love.

We call our fan channels Ns. Our first site is called PCGamesN.com. It’s a network about top PC games. We’ll kick off with 20 N channels and add new ones every week.

We’ll build an N channel about a franchise (let’s use Guild Wars as an example) by combining three types of content: journalism, user submissions, and feeds. We have a team of professional journalists who’ll be writing new content about Guild Wars every day. We’ll encourage our audience to submit their own stuff, too – a bit like how Reddit works. Finally, we’ll look at over 100 trusted sources and see if they’re talking about Guild Wars 2. If they are, then we’ll link to them – a bit like Google News Alerts.

The special sauce is that we’re combining all three content types in a single flow. We’ll use moderation, voting and commenting to surface the best stuff. Then we’ll build specific, relevant social media accounts – check out GuildWars_N on Twitter for example. That’ll keep our audiences on topic.

This hybrid model means we’ll cover the biggest franchises and their communities faster, deeper and better than any traditional media.

PCGamesN.com launched its beta in May 2012. We’ve built a brilliant team including launch editor DanGriliopoulosand ex-PC Zone editor Steve Hogarty.

Tim Edwards has left his role as editor of PC Gamer and will take up the position of Creative Director at Network N in July. We’re looking for new talent with proper passion and expertise about specific games.

The industry gets what we’re doing and is on board. We’ve signed a great set of launch partners.

NCSoft and Wargaming.net were the first publishers to commit. On the hardware side we’re working with Alienware. For digital distribution, we have an e-commerce deal with Green Man Gaming. They all bought into the vision and we’re grateful.

We will launch a sister console site, VideoGamesN.com, covering the likes of Halo and GTA in August.

We think whenever entertainment becomes a hobby; our model of journalism, user-submitted content and curated feeds will work because it’s useful, fun and relevant. We’re going where the gamers are.

Give the biggest audiences the best stuff. It’s a simple plan.

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