Geek & Sundry


Geek & Sundry (G&S) was a commercial YouTube and Twitch channel and multimedia production company launched on April 2, 2012 by the co-creators of a web series The Guild Felicia Day and Kim Evey.[1] The company was bought by Legendary Entertainment in July 2014 and merged with Chris Hardwick's Nerdist company, another subsidiary of Legendary.

Geek & Sundry picked up Critical Role web series in March 2015. In June 2018, Critical Role and the affiliated shows split into its own Critical Role Productions company, moving into their own studios and creating their own social media presence. The split was complete as of February 2019.

History[edit | edit source]

In the wake of the "YouTube Original Channel Initiative" in 2012, co-creators of The Guild web series Felicia Day and Kim Evey prepared a pitch: Youtube channel focused on "Geek Entertainment" introducing the sixth season of The Guild, a show about kids telling ridiculous stories, a weekly show hosted by Felicia, and a game board-centered show ("Tabletop"), inviting Wil Wheaton to host it. When brainstorming a name for the channel, Felicia revolved around the word "Geek", eventually narrowing down the options to "Geek and Sundry" and "Geek Parvenue", but settling with the former.[1]

After a meeting with Youtube executives, Geek & Sundry received funding and was launched on April 2, 2012. As a part of the contract, they were obliged to create 100 videos in five months. The company managed to produce over 420 videos in its first year, and was one of the few Youtube-funded projects that was able to renew its contract in 2013.[1]

Youtube canceled the partnership with Geek & Sundry in December 2013. Now financially independent, the company launched a crowd-funding campaign for the second season of Tabletop raising over $500k in one week.[1] In March 2015, Geek & Sundry launched their Twitch channel with a 48-hour stream in support of The Lupus Foundation[2] and spearheaded by Felicia Day and Zac Eubank.

Attracted by the success of Geek & Sundry, larger companies approached Felicia Day with buyout offers, but she refused them. However, in the coming years Felicia became overwhelmed by both the financial and creative responsibilities in G&S, selling the company to Legendary Entertainment in July of 2014. She continued to creatively collaborate with G&S until 2018, leaving the company to invest more time raising her daughter.[1]

In January 2018, Geek & Sundry obtained 50k Twitch subscribers its all-time high, which was halved in the next month, maintaining around 20k subs until February 2019, when the numbers plummeted to 2-4k.[3]

Since 2018, in the context of Legendary Entertainment reducing the digital division (the cuts accelerated with the rise of Covid-19), and in reality of a global lockdowns in 2020[4] — Geek & Sundry, Legendary's tabletop games-centered channel, faced social distancing guidelines and took a сompelled and indefinite hiatus.[5] In January 2022, the Geek and Sundry website started to redirect to Nerdist.com and its content was integrated into Nerdist website under the "play" banner. Geek & Sundry's last independent show, Lost Odyssey: The Book of Knowledge, aired in late 2019.

Critical Role[edit | edit source]

When shooting Spooked (2014) web series with Geek & Sundry, Ashley Johnson brought along a copy of the D&D Player's Handbook, which Felicia Day noticed and inquired about, discovering Johnson was in a private Dungeons & Dragons home game with other voice actors, including Matthew Mercer (whom Felicia Day already knew). Felicia then approached the the original cast of Critical Role about playing the game live on Geek & Sundry's Twitch channel.[6] The first episode of Critical Role aired on March 12, 2015.[7] The cast of the show remained complete owners of the Critical Role brand, the game's characters, and the world.[8] In 2016 Talks Machina premiered on Geek & Sundry's Twitch channel.

In June 2018, Critical Role began to move to its own studios,[9] airing on the Geek & Sundry channel until February 2019, when it moved to Critical Roles independent production company, Critical Role Productions LLC. All previous episodes were archived on the Geek & Sundry website and YouTube channel, until December 2019 when "Labenda Awaits" (2x20) through "Xhorhas" (2x51) were moved to Critical Role's channel.

Project Alpha[edit | edit source]

In November 2016, Legendary Entertainment launched its subscription streaming service Project Alpha, which featured original programming from the company's Nerdist and Geek & Sundry teams, including the programming of Critical Role (dubbed Critical Role Enhanced[10]). Critical Role Enhanced was broadcast live on the Alpha streaming service, as well as Twitch, featuring a unique overlay that included written commentary, "real-time character sheets, damage and heal animations,"[11][12] and additional art for states like poisoned and grappled.[13]

The overlay was designed by Chris Hanel[13] in collaboration with the producers Critical Role' Matthew Mercer and Marisha Ray, and the official Campaign 1 artist Kit Buss provided custom portraits to reflect damage level of each character. Edward Doty, a producer at Geek and Sundry, was responsible for the information cards featured on the overlay, manually live-casting brief facts about the episode's NPCs, spell and item descriptions, and humor.[10] The subscription cost $4.99 a month,[11] and G&S and Nerdist Twitch subscribers were gifted a 6 month free membership to Alpha upon its release.[14] Project Alpha provided its subscribers with a 10% discount in the Geek & Sundry shop.[15]

Upon release, Project Alpha was criticized for opposing the wishes of both G&S and Nerdist communities, technical shortcomings, and "gimmicky, unnecessary, and distracting" overlay with typos and poorly chosen information.[16][17]. Compared to Twitch broadcast, the technical shortcomings upon the release of Alpha: poor video and sound quality, "choppy" full-screen video resolution, lack of volume controls, only available on PC, and delayed VODs upload. In the following weeks, the video quality was reportedly improved, and the option to change the volume levels was added.[18][16][14]

Legendary Entertainment has not disclosed the exact number of Alpha subscribers, in early 2018 claiming it had been around "six-figures and has grown 200% over the last 12 months". In 2018 Legendary announced five new shows exclusive to Project Alpha: Bizarre States: Declassified (Jessica Chobot and Andrew Bowser explore the specific and iconic piece of the oeuvre of celebrities), Key Question (Matt Key and Marisha Ray ask questions examine and deconstruct the hidden meanings of the most famous pop-culture figures), Nerdist News: What the Friday (Nerdist's week-in-review show hosted by Jessica Chobot), We're Alive: Frontier (a post-apocalyptic role-playing adventure, based on the podcast of the same name).[19]

Alpha was shut down in March 31, 2019, and some of its exclusive content was moved to Geek & Sundry's Twitch and Youtube channels,[20] including CelebriD&D web series.

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Geek and Sundry 10 years later" essay by Felicia Day (March 30, 2022).
  2. Geek & Sundry Marathons for 48-Hours In Support of The Lupus Foundation on Geek & Sundry website (March 3, 2015). version.
  3. Shift in the number of G&S Twitch subscribers according to Twitchtracker.com
  4. "Layoffs Hit Legendary's Digital Division (EXCLUSIVE)" on Variety (Jul 30, 2020).
  5. "The History of International Tabletop Day"
  6. How Popular Voice Actors Took A D&D Game Global With Critical Role on Gameinformer (Dec 22, 2016).
  7. "WATCH C2E2: The Critical Role Cast Shares Their Origin Story" at 4:27.
  8. Matthew Mercer's comment on Reddit.
  9. Geek & Sundry on Wikipedia
  10. 10.0 10.1 Reddit comment posted by Edward Doty, a producer at Geek and Sundry.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Alpha information reveals new shows and the return of favorite series" article on Geek & Sundry website (September 28, 2016).
  12. "Legendary Digital Sets 'Alpha' Subscription VOD Launch Plans, With Nerdist and Geek & Sundry Programming Slate" on Variety (September 28, 2016). Archived version.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Critical Role - Alpha Broadcast Overlays (retrieved in February 2024). Also includes a screenshots of the overlay.
  14. 14.0 14.1 AMA on Geek & Sundry subreddit.
  15. "Talks Machina Special #3: Critical Role Campaign 1 Wrap-up" (TMSx03) at 2:38:10.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Review of Project Alpha by Seedy88 posted on Reddit.
  17. Reddit comment about their general experience with Alpha.
  18. Review of Project Alpha posted by Rocketsoup on their blog.
  19. Legendary’s Alpha Streaming Service Sets Five Original Series From Nerdist, Geek & Sundry article on Variety (Feb 28, 2018).
  20. The article posted by Variety discussing the closure.