I’ve long been frustrated by the traditional gaming press’s inability to best serve many of our industry’s largest audiences. Some games have such large fandoms that the generalist nature of publications like Polygon means we’re simply incapable of getting as far into the weeds as the audience itself wants to go. I like to think that’s less a failure of outlets like ours — our audience doesn’t want dozens of stories a day about a single game, after all — and more an opportunity to try something new. And to that end, competitive esports titles are the best place to start.
Some background: I used to be editor-in-chief at a site called Joystiq (RIP), but I had a nominal oversight of a satellite brand under Joystiq called WoW Insider covering one game only: World of Warcraft. At its peak, WoW Insider was monumental. It defined much of the discussion around one of the world’s biggest games, and it served a community that flocked to it daily. And what WoW Insider did, Joystiq was not able to do. And that was ... great. What was less great was parent company AOL’s inability to recognize what it had.
When I first pitched Polygon to what would become Vox Media back in 2011, I wanted to extend that format, following the company’s wildly successful SB Nation model. We decided, instead of starting with the “team sites” as SB Nation had done, we’d start with the parent site and work our way back into those communities. And with that, Polygon launched nearly five years ago.
So yes, it’s taken us slightly longer than anticipated to get back to that initial goal, but we’re finally here. We piloted the model with The Rift Herald last year, quickly spinning up a League of Legends community at SB Nation, with the goal of validating the concept. It’s a video game. It’s a sport. It was a great match. And it proved to be more successful, and even more quickly, than we had planned.
So it’s with great excitement that we’re bringing that initial “pilot” to Polygon, along with two additional sites, as our first foray into gaming’s most exciting communities. The Rift Herald will cover League of Legends; The Flying Courier will cover Dota 2; and Heroes Never Die will cover Overwatch. All three sites will not only focus on the esports scene, but will cover the entire game, from competitive to cosplay, from pro players to patch notes. These audiences aren’t monolithic, and neither is our coverage.
We’re excited to have a great team leading up these sites, starting with Julia Lee (@dahrae_) at The Rift Herald; Victoria Rose (@riningear) at The Flying Courier; and Cass Marshall (@RequineGG) at Heroes Never Die. They’ll be joined by contributors Ryan Gilliam, Austen Goslin and plenty of familiar bylines from Polygon.
This project wouldn’t be possible without a whole bunch of behind the scenes effort — thanks massive Vox Media product team! — but I wanted to highlight the contributions of Cory Schmitz and Emily Haasch, who created the branding system for this network. Cory created the original Polygon branding in 2012 and here, together with Emily, they’ve created something that bears a sharp family resemblance but retains its own identity. I think the sites look incredible.
Lastly, thanks to you. If you’re reading this, you might care about one of these games and are eager to subscribe to a site that wants to serve your interest directly, instead of asking you to scan a generalist esports site for the game(s) you care about. Maybe your underserved game of choice is something else, another opportunity for us to try harder and serve you better. I’m excited to get started.