Destructoid interview: UGO’s Michael McCracken and 1UP’s Sam Kennedy

The UGO acquisition of 1UP throttled the gaming community. The acquisition signaled the end of Electronic Gaming Monthly, the leading videogame magazine. We celebrated the magazine’s rich and influential history on our own main page the day we found out that it had been cancelled.

More important than any magazine, were the gifted people that lost their jobs that day. It was the sad, bile-building reality of the deal brokered between the two publishers. The good news is that many writers were retained and given new jobs with UGO.  

I recently got an opportunity to do an e-mail interview with Michael McCracken, president of UGO Entertainment, and Sam Kennedy, editorial director at 1UP. We covered a lot of ground — EGM, podcasts, and 1UP’s future — but most importantly, Kennedy spoke about the people.

At the end of the interview Kennedy told me, “whatever talented people we may have lost recently or in the past, I’d love nothing more to regain as many of them in time.” It’s a good message. UGO and 1UP will continue building their respective websites. Nothing has been left off table.

Hit the break for the full interview.

When was the acquisition [finalized]?

Michael McCracken:
Both parties were working feverishly on deal points all the way up until Tuesday, January 6th, when the transaction was closed and announced.

Why didn’t UGO pick up the EGM brand name?

UGO has been an online-only entity for the entire course of its 11-year history.  While we recognize and deeply respect the strength of the EGM brand and what that magazine has meant to gamers over the years, we have no experience with or desire to enter the magazine publishing business.  The opportunity to buy the EGM brand independent of the publication itself was not something that was discussed in any of our negotiations.

As I understand it, the one ex-1UP Network property that is sticking with Ziff Davis is File Front. Why wasn’t that part of the deal as well?

The infrastructure required to support an online business like File Front is quite different than what’s required to run 1UP, GameVideos, MyCheats and GameTab. Our strength and interest lies in growing the types of websites we ultimately acquired.
If UGO didn’t acquire 1UP, what would have happened?

We would have continued to search for an editorial powerhouse in the games space that would broaden our reach and represent a new flagship brand within our content portfolio.  In fact, even with the acquisition of 1UP, that search continues today, which we feel is pretty remarkable given the economic times.  Hearst is looking for UGO to become the #1 player in games and we have taken that mission to heart.  If you are wondering what would have happened to 1UP if the acquisition didn’t occur, that’s a question best answered by the folks over at Ziff Davis.
Will UGO run any of the 1UP video segments or podcasts?

Thank you for the opportunity to clear up a firestorm of misinformation regarding UGO’s point of view on 1UP’s podcast and video strategy.  At no point has anyone at UGO definitively “shut down” any of the great shows the 1UP team has developed.  Sam Kennedy and his team of editors at 1UP have a lot to think about right now.  They need to assess the resources they have available; they need to examine how their past productions have performed.  Are changes afoot?  Clearly.  Is UGO philosophically opposed to podcasting and personality-driven video?  By no means.  From everything we’ve seen from Sam and the team, this is a highly passionate group of experts with extreme savvy in developing online games content.  They are just now beginning to get a sense of their new business parameters and we’re confident they will emerge with an excellent strategy going forward.

Sam Kennedy:
I just wanted to chime in here as well. Podcasts and video shows were clearly impacted in all of this, but we fully intend to offer this content going forward – how much we do and how many shows we produce remains to be seen, though. Original video content on the web has taken a hit pretty much across the board, but we still have plans to produce some original stuff for As for podcasts, we’ve already had quite a few conversations with people currently working for 1UP and formerly working for 1UP on ideas for how to continue certain shows or to create new ones. Stay tuned, because there will be some good news on this front.

Will 1UP users lose their reviews, forum, and blog posts?

Sam Kennedy:
Absolutely not., as a site, remains unchanged in all of this. In fact, the plan is to continue to grow and improve the community aspects, making these posts easier to find. So no, people will not lose their previous work. The only caveat to this is that 1UP has been in the process of migrating to newer and better message boards (something we’ve been working on for several months). While the boards themselves will transition to the new software, older posts will most likely not. However, we will still keep them available for as long as possible.

What will 1UP look like within the next 1-2 years?

Sam Kennedy:
Great question. In terms of our sites, a lot of things that we’ve had in the works for quite some time will finally come to fruition – and that means a lot better design, functionality, and performance. We intend to keep growing the 1UP community and really fulfilling 1UP’s mission of being the home for the gamer. In terms of our editorial, we’re going to keep doing what we always have, and that’s producing the very best content we can. How much we do and what types of content we offer remains to be seen, but our approach of having the most in-depth, informative, and entertaining content will continue on no matter what.

Do you have any specific plans for 1UP?

Sam Kennedy:
Yes, just to continue the mission of making 1UP the best destination for gamers, with the most robust community and the most informative and entertaining content. Our mission hasn’t changed, and we still get closer to our goal every day. And whatever talented people we may have lost recently or in the past, I’d love nothing more than to regain as many of them in time.    

[We thank UGO’s Michael McCracken and 1UP’s Sam Kennedy for their time.]

Brad BradNicholson