Beasts of War is one of the largest and most successful wargame sites on the web. I had a quick chat with Warren Johnston, the boss, at UK Games Expo this year who told me they had about ten full-time people on their team. That sounds like an incredible number to this little blogger, but the Beasts of War team were at the UK Games Expo in force as the media sponsors. It was easy to believe at least 10 of the team there worked full-time on the site.
Except, they were all wearing OnTableTop t-shirts, and there wasn’t a Beasts of War logo any of the gear.
The site is in between worlds. The domain is still www.beastsofwar.com, but when you get there, the branding is entirely OnTableTop. The ontabletop.com domain works but redirects you back to beastsofwar.com. The SEO migration challenge is yet to begin.
This week the site took a big step forward in changing their name. It took a year, but Facebook now calls them “OnTableTop”.
As of today, they are still Beasts of War on Twitch and Beasts of War on Twitter. Instagram, owned by Facebook, is OnTableTop_Official. Crucially, they are OnTableTop on YouTube and it’s YouTube that is booming for board game review communities. It’s popular YouTube channels that game publishers are willing to pay to get their products on.
On Facebook, Warren told the community they are still working on getting the name changed across other social platforms;
Today Facebook allowed us to change it here – its still a work in progress and quite the challenge to get the social companies to make the change
Why did Beasts of War change their name?
The name ‘Beasts of War’ works as a brand for war gamers (and roleplayers, geeks in general) but it did alarm some people. The team had been accused of being a satan cult by a youth group.
To be honest we have been considering a bit of a name change for a while (We had an interesting interaction with a youth religious group that thought we were satanists that took a bit of explaining lol)
The main reason, though, is YouTube. I have not seen the details of OnTableTop’s financial data (though their assets are listed at Companies House in the UK), but I would speculate the video platform is a significant part of their earnings.
While I speculate that YouTube is financially important to OnTableTop, Warren thinks that the name ‘Beasts of War’ was causing the company problems there.
About 18 Months ago we started to suspect that we were getting a kind of shadow ban on YouTube, and we did some research with some other YouTubers and found that our name Beasts of War was being flagged as a keyword. (We also tried their ad platform and found every Ad we entered being automatically declined – so clearly something was up)
We suspect we were getting caught up as collateral damage in YouTube’s attempts at controlling the types of content appearing on their platform.
Just how big is OnTableTop?
It’s frightfully hard to estimate the size of a site. Geek Native gets bugged by media companies who mistakenly think the blog is ten times the size it is but let’s ignore that warning and take a look at OnTabletop.
|OnTableTop||136, 280||85, 881||130|
|Dakka Dakka||22, 373||–||50|
|Spikey Bits||160, 432||44, 085||61|
|Bell of Lost Souls||161, 597||22, 792||36|
How come there are dozens of sites above these four? There are lots of Magic the Gathering trading communities, brand sites like Yu Gi Oh, portals and sites for traditional games that make up the difference.
Facebook figures are an indication of popularity but not of engagement. However, we see the OnTableTop are a bit behind the other three. It’s YouTube, with those lucrative sponsored videos, were OnTableTop has a commanding lead.
Is Beasts of War gone forever?
It’s not gone yet. The site’s domain is still Beasts of War, and it’s that domain that the news search engines have. That’ll be a big switch.
I suspect, though, that the original brand will always be near and dear to the founding team. Warren notes;
In our hearts we’ll always be Beasts and we know a ton of you will too!
Are you a Beasts of War regular? What do you make of the new name?