Popular D&D Group Critical Role Asks Fans To Pay Because YouTube And Twitch Suck

Screenshot: Kotaku / Critical Role
Screenshot: Kotaku / Critical Role

Critical Role is going independent-er. After splitting from Geek & Sundry (and its parent company, Legendary Entertainment) some years ago, the wildly popular actual-play webseries has grown significantly from a singular show into its own network and company. Now it is taking the logical next step and launching its own membership service called Beacon. Beacon will be an optional sub for the immensely dedicated Critters who want to directly support the company, and the folks behind Critical Role are making no real effort to disguise the fact that this subscription is to help it rely less on video platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

First and foremost, Beacon will not impact viewers who have been watching Critical Role on YouTube and Twitch for free. According to Travis Willingham, CR’s CEO as well as one of its actors, “You will still be able to watch and listen freely with the same release schedule that it has always been for all these nine, going on ten years.” Beacon will exist atop that regular cadence of shows as an extra layer that will offer fans a more “unfiltered experience.” It is not quite going the way of the much-lauded Dropout, which does host all of its programming on its subscription service, but it is also avoiding the pitfalls of the recent Watcher debacle, which faced backlash for hastily locking its future content behind an unpopular subscription before walking the decision back.

For $5.99/month or $59.99/year, Beacon members will be treated to a slew of new exclusive programming, such as a post-show reaction called CR Cooldown, as well as pretty standard benefits, like merch discounts, presales for live event tickets, early access to shows, and a private Discord.

Marisha Rey, another cast member and owner of CR, cuts to the larger point of the subscription a few minutes into the announcement video. “Over the years it has become a huge priority for us to bring more and more of our business in-house and it’s no secret that video platforms…let’s just say they’ve been through their ups and downs recently.” Rey goes on to cite how countless CR videos have either been demonetized because the cast has “the vocabulary of teenage sailors,” or featured ads that didn’t reflect the company’s values. Beacon is a way to provide more benefits to the most dedicated CR fans and establish a direct line to them, but it’s also the company’s attempt to cut out YouTube and Twitch as much as possible, since they’ve become increasingly unstable platforms for its creators, as well as other third-party companies like Patreon, which the team considered before landing on Beacon.

Rey stressed that the team is still building out Beacon and adding to it, asking for patience from CR fans as they continue to work on it and “beef it up.” To that end, Matt Mercer, the GM of the main tabletop show, also teased that the company has big things in store for its upcoming ten-year anniversary, and Beacon will presumably have a role to play in things as it becomes a bigger part of the company’s plans and structure moving forward.

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