Rooster Teeth, an internet-favorite for video game content, has a mass following as gamers no longer fit the mold that the pop culture previously defined them as.
Because as Geoff Ramsey, co-founder of Rooster Teeth says, “It’s weird if you’re not a gamer at this point. My mother’s in her late 60s, had no idea Pokémon was a cartoon, but she plays the game every day.”
Back in the 1980s, Ramsey remembers, it wasn’t cool to be into video games because there was a “stigma attached to it.”
“These days, my daughter and her friends all game,” he said. “Video games, and video game content, are forms of entertainment for her. She doesn’t know cable TV, but she does understand Netflix and Hulu.”
Everybody these days is a video game player, according to Ramsey. Consider the apps on your phone you tap when you need to waste some time. What about the app-ified or DVD-ified versions of classic board games, like Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble? Even last year’s phenomena of Pokémon Go convinced all sorts of people to download and have some fun.
For Rooster Teeth, they understand that video games are now an accepted form of entertainment and have provided all forms of it for the last 14 years. They’ve created their own cartoon series based off of the Halo franchise called ‘Red Vs. Blue,’ an original anime series called ‘RWBY’ and tons of videos with content creators playing video games while hanging out with each other.
Some of those projects have been developed into feature-length films available on YouTube Red. Rooster Teeth’s personalities are so beloved that 2.5 million people have watched them play Uno, in a nearly three-hour video call Uno: The Movie.
Throughout the last 14 years, they also created podcasts, character-driven shows, merchandise and live events like their RTX convention which brings together fans of Rooster Teeth properties.
“The first RTX I attended before I started working here,” said Michael Jones, one of the content creators and personalities of Achievement Hunter, an offshoot of Rooster Teeth that specifically focuses on gameplay, “was about 500 fans in a field next to the office.”
“It was super cool, like a huge meet-and-greet or a cool family reunion,” he said. “The next year, we held it at the Austin Convention Center and a couple thousand people showed up.”
RTX has since gone global, with conventions in Sydney and London, meant for fans who can’t easily travel to Texas.
Today, the company is announcing an expanded multi-city tour of “Let’s Play Live,” which will combine personalities from Achievement Hunter and Funhaus, another gameplay-centric collective for Rooster Teeth based in Los Angeles.
According to Jones, fans of Rooster Teeth can often get attached to very specific parts of what the company produces.
“I work behind-the-scenes here at Rooster Teeth, and someone still came up to me at RTX because they recognized me,” Luis Medina, Rooster Teeth’s svp of partnerships, told Adweek. “But they follow a lot of us on Twitter, and they’re interested in what we’re doing.”
Once, at an airport baggage claim, Medina saw a family of four each wearing different Rooster Teeth-inspired T-shirts. To Medina, that tells the story of who the Rooster Teeth audience is.
“Video games are bigger than a subculture,” he said.
Medina works with brands who want to connect with fans of video games, but he doesn’t want to sell the Rooster Teeth audience short.
“If it feels contrived or artificial, we won’t do it,” he said. “Our audience is too savvy and they’d see through it very quickly. Plus, our team won’t love doing it, so nobody will see results. What brands need to recognize is that opening the door to a gaming audience doesn’t close the door to a broader audience. It’s the same thing.”
Rooster Teeth’s revenue breaks down mostly between advertising sales and merchandise profits, with royalties/licensing fees, live event participation and subscription fees from its website making up the other half of its revenue stream.
Last March, Rooster Teeth partnered with classic video game Doom to introduce the newest edition of the game. Pro gamers played alongside pro athletes including Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown, New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski and retired French soccer star Thierry Henry, to further illustrate the breadth of video gaming.
Beyond video game companies, they’ve worked with brands like Pizza Hut to create live activations at Rooster Teeth events.
“In the few years that we’ve worked with them, they’ve crossed over to mainstream just as gaming has made the leap from niche to gen pop,” said Jenna Bromberg, the director of digital engagement with Pizza Hut, in an email. “Dissecting influencers by genre isn’t as defined as it once was, especially when you consider a group like Rooster Teeth that’s as much ‘comedy and entertainment’ as it is ‘gaming.'”
“Our audience is pretty wide,” said Ramsey. “The default demographic will almost always be high schoolers and college-aged people, but a 50-year-old man in a full three-piece suit once walked up to me in Denver to tell me what a fan he was.”
Fans come from all different backgrounds because of the breadth of content Rooster Teeth has to offer—teenagers flock to animated series, but as their fans get older they’re more likely to enjoy gameplay videos and eventually podcasts.
“Their influence, while still strongest among fans perhaps labeled as ‘gamers,’ has really reached pop culture status which in turn helps us connect with a broader group of pizza-eating consumers,” said Bromberg.
Although a majority of its content is displayed on YouTube, Rooster Teeth was created long before those algorithms existed.
“Other websites and platforms just come and go all the time,” said Ramsey while explaining why Rooster Teeth focuses on maintaining its core audience on its website. “If we had gone all in on Vine, we’d be broke right now.”
“You’re never less than 30 seconds away from a video game at any time,” he said. “So neither are we.”