What do a writer, a comic book artist, charity, game reviews, web comics, conventions, merchandising and a senate state resolution have in common? I expect that people would either immediately know the answer to this question, or would never be able to guess.The answer is a company: Penny-arcade. But this is a company like no other.
The story of Penny-arcade is a Cinderella meets social media story. This is one venture that illustrates how humble talent, hard work, a bit of luck and social media can create incredible results.
The story starts in the late nineties with two gentlemen: Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. Mike and Jerry went to high school together and shared a passion for games. As a hobby they started a comic where Mike would draw and Jerry would write the stories. These were the early days of the internet and the power of social media was still years away. Mike and Jerry initially used a 3rd party website to publish their comics and started to gain popularity. They had a unique style to their art and message, you could describe it as “unfiltered, brutally honest” and this formula resonated very well with their audience.
The relationship with the 3rd party company did not work. It was then when luck stroke and they met Robert Khoo. Robert was a business manager who recognized their potential and offered to be their business manager (initially for free!). Mike and Jerry partnered with Robert and he was able to help them start Penny-arcade.
Their success was driven from their connection and interaction with their audience. In the early years of the company it ran exclusively on donations. Over the years the trio has grown a humble web comic into one of the most influential organizations on the games industry. All along they have done this based on the connection they have with their audience and they have of course used all the main social media outlets to foster this connection.
Today Penny-arcade uses a large number of channels to reach and connect with their audiences. They were born on the internet and have grown with it. They created podcasts, online TV channel, merchandising, vetted advertising, their own video game, a charity organization and one of the largest video game conventions meeting in Seattle, Boston and soon Australia. Many of their endeavors have been very successful, and in 2009 they received official recognition from the Washington State Legislature.
Today you can find them on their own website www.penny-arcade.com where they run their comics, their blog and is the hub of their internet presence. They interact with their fans on their own forums, on facebook where they have over 45,000 likes, on twitter where they have over 24,000 followers. They are of course at the top of any web search index. They even created a kickstarter project where they asked their fans to fund them again and dedicate more time to fan’s request instead of some of their commercial projects. They raised over half a million dollars.
Penny-arcade’s use of multiple social media outlets has been one the key assets for their success.