Writer Conor Smith sat down with CEO Garrett Atkins to talk all about GPN, and answer your frequently asked questions! 

First of all, Garrett, can you introduce yourself and say a bit about your professional background? 

Hi, my name’s Garrett Atkins. Until recently, I was mainly just a consumer gamer and serial entrepeneur. I started my first company back in 2016, and it was a digital marketing company. It’s still real small and an independent-type gig, but it led onto more business opportunities once that was started up successfully. Having started a few other businesses, this then led to where we are five years later. Now, I’m actually pursuing what I’ve been the most passionate about my whole life, which is GPN. 

What is GPN? 

GPN is an Xbox-centred news and media brand. We’re bringing news to people on multiple platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, our own website through written articles and videos, social media platforms, and then of course a variety of podcasts covering different subject matters. 

How did GPN come to be? 

I’ve been gaming since I was four or five years old, like most hard-core gamers, and I’ve been an Xbox fan since my thirteenth birthday. In fact, the day before my thirteenth birthday, the Xbox 360 came out. I wanted to do video game journalism all throughout high school, but life took me on a different path. I was leading the digital marketing firm, VIE Media, so I didn’t have much time to get involved in the industry. Likewise, my business partner and best friend, Alex Dietrich, (who is the Chief Operating Officer of GPN), went to school for video game design, but then became a serial entrepreneur like myself. 

Then, three or four years ago, Alex and I sat down and talked about getting involved in the videogame industry. We came up with a game plan of what we wanted to do and, originally, we wanted to start a video game development studio. We still plan to do that, but instead we sat down and came up with the idea of writing about Xbox content. We thought we’d recruit maybe four people, along with my cousin, and altogether have maybe a team of ten people where we’re producing a couple of videos, and a couple of articles a month, if that. Then Alex told me, ‘Hey let’s not do anything more, because we have five businesses and we’re already really busy. How about we wait until we get some stuff off our plate, and let’s revisit the idea of doing that in late July?’ 

So I was like, ‘Okay, well I’m just going to put a tweet out on Twitter about it and get some feedback.’ I thought maybe four people would like the tweet, so I tweeted it out, and then 4.25 million impressions later we have over 50 GPN team members who, in the short-term, have volunteered their time to help build what is essentially the largest indie media and news brand that covers Xbox-centric news. 

It’s entirely up to you and your crew with which one you go for but all of them will yield you bags of gold. Once you’ve snatched up some Quests, head over to the table on the ship and place your chosen Quest down. Your Pirate friends will have to vote on it too for it to activate, so shout them your way to get going, and head to the map to mark which locales you’ll be visiting. It’s well worth mapping out your journeykeeping tabs on the closest Outposts to cash-in your findings. Keeping track of where they are will be useful and lessen the chances of losing your hoard in one sitting, plus it’s a good chance to stock up your supplies, too. 

What needed to be done after the initial announcement? 

I was very blessed, after the tweet had blown up, to be able to set up some meetings with some high-profile people in the Xbox-centric industry – including editors, chiefs of other media news brands in the Xbox world, YouTube personalities, Twitch streamers, and a couple of employees of the team at Xbox (and they allowed me to disclose that I met with them). Meeting with them gave me an idea of how big the team needed to be. 

So the first thing I did was my research, and talk to the people who are already out there doing a good job of what we’re setting out to do, and start building relationships. After that, we started recruiting. Once we got some team members, we immediately started drafting up the logo – the logo itself, the symbol, the horizontal version with the named spelled out because it’s an acronym, and then you have all the colours. After that, we had to build out all the social media handles and links, making them look as professional and as good of a representation of our brand as possible. Then, of course, the behemoth: the website itself. 

Then, internally, we had to decide what software we were going to use, and what software were going to act as the backbone of the GPN brand. Then we had to get all the teams together and have countless meetings – company-wide meetings, team meetings, one-on-ones, admin meetings, leaderships meetings, et cetera. 

What was the recruitment process like? 

So, as I mentioned, I put out this Twitter announcement and had over 800 people reach out between all platforms. People were coming in through my personal website, my InstagramFacebook, and TikTok – but most of them, thankfully, located on Twitter. I immediately said, ‘Okay, this is way too much. I gave access of my Twitter to my cousin, my COO, and our Chief of Staff, Kyle Laubacker. 

They helped me field all of the interviews – Kyle took over the streaming interviews, Mikey took over the writing and editing interviews, Alex took the podcasters, video editors and webpage developers, and then I took more high-profile candidates that came in the door. We had some candidates that were way over-qualified to even want to get involved in this grassroots indie project, but we’re very blessed to have a lot of very good talent. 

What departments are involved? 

The main departments are YouTubeTwitch, all the mainstream social media channels, the website, and podcasts. There are multiple podcasts that cover a variety of different subjects. What’s involved on a customer-facing level is the production of a lot of high-quality top-notch content that meets our target audience’s needs and wants. 

On the internal side, we have social, video, streaming, article, podcast, and design teams. There’s a lot of cross-channel communication and teamwork going on behind the scenes, with brainstorming, task management software, and a lot of meetings. That gives you a very short idea of what’s involved on the external and internal level of all those departments. 

What does gaming mean to you, and why was this the right time to pursue that passion? 

I guess I’ll give the long answer to this. Back in 2016, I had started my first company and that was VIE Media – it was a digital marketing agency. The reason I started that company was because I wanted a company that would make it very easy to start other companies. One of the largest overhead costs for a lot of companies is their marketing budget, so I figured that if I had a digital marketing company, I would make it much easier for myself to start other companies. 

The reason I wanted to do this is because I wanted to lower the barrier of entry for starting your own successful business. That way, I could help friends and family. Over the past five years, I’ve helped friends and family start businesses and achieve the same level of freedom that I have achieved with VIE Media. I’m not rich, but I make a living for myself and I live life on my own terms because of what I’ve built so far for myself. I wanted to provide that same thing to friends and family, and I did that. But I never realised, over the course of the past five years, that even though I love VIE Media and I’m passionate about it, I never treated myself to the one thing that I wanted to do. 

When I had identified that, I realised I wasn’t particularly happy all the time. I have three beautiful pets, beautiful partner, great family, good relationships with them, but I wasn’t particularly happy over the past five years of building it. So I was like, ‘Man, I need to do something about this,’ and that’s when I sat down with Alex, and we finally nailed out, ‘Hey, we got to do this.’ 

Of course, it happened a little sooner than he would have liked, but gaming means everything to me. If I take myself out of the gaming industry, it sounds weird to say that – it sounds nerdy, odd, maybe even empty – but not for me. I feel like gaming is something I can do literally all day every day and not quite get bored. I could quite literally get lost in these worlds for the rest of time. Especially nowadays with backlogs as big as they are, there’s not even the time in the day if you tried. I just think it is the most interactive art form there is in the world, which is a very powerful statement but it also stands true. 

So, gaming means a lot. It means a lot of good memories; it means a lot of good times in the future, because there’s always good stuff on the horizon; it means good times with friends; it means good times by yourself playing a single-player game, which is the equivalent of an interactive movie, essentially. I’m just really excited that it’s taking a more central focus in my life now that GPN has launched and we’re out there in the open world. 

Why focus on Xbox, and was that always the direction you wanted to go in? 

Yeah, no doubt. I’ve been a diehard Xbox fan since the 360 generation. The two years leading up to the 360, I was already all over the scene – I was non-stop checking IGN and other websites. So I got my first Xbox in 2005 with the Xbox 360, because it came out the day before my thirteenth birthday. My parents locked me one up. I remember this because they told me there was only 13 Xbox consoles at the store, and they were the thirteenth in line on my thirteenth birthday, and they got the console, which is just weird. But I’ve been a huge fan since then. 

I think I got Xbox Live that Christmas, and that’s when I fell head over heels for Xbox. I think, from an operating system perspective, and a live services perspective, they’re just the best in the game right now. I think they’re the most consumer friendly, I think they’re the most customer-facing, I think that they have services which are very valuable – like Xbox Game Pass for example. Not just Xbox Game Pass, but their Xbox network services, core services, party chat – I think the way they’re implemented is a lot simpler than on other platforms. So, just because they’ve had a great operating system that’s easy to deal with, I’ve been a huge fan. I’ve also been a huge fan of the team that works at Xbox – they’re very communicative with the community, and therefore you feel a part of the journey. 

And honestly, contrary to a lot of people, I’ve always liked their first-party games. Even before the Bethesda acquisition, and the current horizon of super heavy-hitting exclusives. Some of them aren’t game of the year contenders, but I like them nonetheless, and I’m one of the biggest Halo fans in the world. So yeah, needless to say, I’ve been an Xbox fan since I was 13, and I’m 28 now. 

Finally, what is GPN currently working on? 

So, right now, what we’re working on is accessibility and inclusivity. Not just with our staff and team members, but for the target audience as well. We’re working on rolling out Portuguese, German, and Spanish versions of the website. We looked at some data, and we’re able to see that those three languages are the three most spoken languages other than English for our audience. We want to make sure that we can cater to them in their native language. Just to make it much easier, much more accessible, and to appeal to more people. 

Ever since we started GPN, inclusivity and accessibility were two of the main pillars of what I set out to do with the team, and the ownership. So that’s really going to be the main focus right now. Of course, we’re always improving internal processes, making our content better for our existing audience and so that it brings new people into our audience, and also to innovate as much as possible. But inclusivity is the thing right now. 

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Thank you all for reading this frequently asked questions all about GPN! We’re incredibly excited to have launched, and can’t wait to share everything we have in store for you. We hope you join us on our journey to bring you the best Xbox-centred gaming content. 

conor smith

Conor Smith

Article Team

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