Posted on 2024-05-09

Read Time: 4 minutes | 728 words

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Critical Role Introduces Beacon

Critical Role has made the next move in its ongoing evolution from a group of “nerdy-ass voice actors” playing a weekly D&D game for fun to a fully-fledged independent gaming studio and production house with the launch of a new membership platform Beacon.

The new site, billed as “the new home for all things Critical Role,” includes access to live event presales, a merch discount, and a full catalog of video-on-demand (VOD) uploads including current episodes in full on the day of release with the podcast also immediately available. It also includes access to the Critical Role Discord server that offers fans a direct line to the creators. Membership costs $6 for a monthly subscription and $60 ($5 a month) for a year. Which, for some fans, means they will probably break even with the merch discount.

You have to give the team at Critical Role credit for being willing to take on new challenges to stay independent and true to their values and core mission. This is a massive risk, but it also feels like the right response to a current media landscape that is bent toward large centralized corporations that often succeed by devouring artists and talents and then spitting them out. For Critical Role this a solid attempt to protect their talents and themselves from that space. It also gives the fans a way to support the organization without supporting Amazon or Google in the process 1.

Obviously, Critical Role is not the first to do this. Sam Reich’s success with Dropout has been repeatedly mentioned in online discussions, and I am sure the Critical Role team is working to find their own path to similar levels of success. There are plenty of risks along the way, though. A lot of these platforms have failed. Geek and Sundry, where Critical Role first aired, had Project Alpha which was a paid platform that was not well received by the community. Personally, I thought the shows on Alpha were great, and I welcomed the opportunity to support the creators and communicate with fans in a more moderated space. The smaller “slow channels” for Critical Role viewing were an amazing idea (and why I immediately signed up for Beacon). While I liked Alpha’s creators and shows, Legendary and its owners were emblematic of what happens when large corporations buy a small community of talented creators. They burn the entire community to the ground. Critical Role left Alpha and Geek and Sundry in 2019 an event that was widely seen as the death knell for Geek and Sundry. Thankfully, creators who worked at G&S have moved on to work with Dropout and Critical Role as well as building their own online communities.

It is evident that Critical Role keeps the lessons that it learned from the Project Alpha/Geek and Sundry debacle close. Marisha Ray was a creative director at Geek and Sundry before moving into the role for Critical Role during that time. She watched what happened, and she and the entire Critical Role team have shown that they are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past. I am cheering for them, and I am subscribing. I was on Alpha, and I moved with them to Twitch, and I am happy to see where they go next. Frankly, I have been steadily moving to supporting individual teams and creators instead of platforms or corporations. I canceled Netflix last year. I closed out my Prime channel subscriptions when they decided to include advertising. If I am being honest, the value I get for my entertainment dollar is so much better, now.

It is going to be fascinating to see how Critical Role evolves in 2024 and 2025. With the release of the Daggerheart system, they are moving away from relying on Hasbro/WoTC. They are partnering with Demiplane to create online toolsets for Candela Obscura and Daggerheart 2. They are anchoring a large section of the indie gaming space, and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how others in the community build on and expand the paths that Critical Role is trailblazing.

  1. We’ll leave out the fact that they are relying on Discord which may be starting its own descent into trash. That remains to be seen, though. ↩︎

  2. Demiplane is making some serious moves. I am incredibly excited to see that they are partnering with Free League↩︎

Tags: #critical-role  #ttrpg 

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