Technology

The Digital Foundry Supporter Program – what we’ve achieved and where we’re going next

It’s been around 18 months now since we relaunched our Patreon as the Digital Foundry Supporter Program – and I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you what we’ve achieved in that time and where we aim to go next with the aid of your backing. For us at DF, it’s been an interesting and successful experience based on a fundamental question: in a world packed with free reporting, can we actually sustain and grow what we do with help from the audience? And what if we invited these supporters to be closer to the team, to talk to us directly, and to offer a range of further benefits in the process?

Let’s quickly talk about the basics of what we offer. The DF Supporter Program has three tiers: the $5/£5 supporter tier gives you access to our Discord – where the team regularly participate in discussions and answer questions – along with early access to DF Direct Weekly, the ability to pose questions for the show along with a weekly update from me that keeps backers fully up to speed with what projects each staff member is working on and what else is in the pipeline. High quality, ad-free video downloads? Yes, that’s included too.

Speaking of downloads, we’ve upgraded our satellite website, digitalfoundry.net, to better service supporters, with easy access to our work. Everything we do is available for users to easily download in both h.264 and HEVC formats, with the format of the site changing according to your Patreon tier, allowing you to easily access exclusive material depending on the support level you’ve chosen.

Premium supporters at $10/£9.50 get all of the above plus early access to a lot of Digital Foundry content – tomorrow’s videos today, if you will. In the past 18 months, we’ve delivered over 100 videos ahead of their public release.

On top of that, there’s a wealth of bonus material, behind the scenes videos and other goodies we think have value – like, how about 4K 120fps capture of DLSS 3 in action? How about DLSS 3 generated frames vs ‘native’ frames? How about 20 minute Warzone 2.0 performance captures with up to four platforms running simultaneously? What about the time I bought an 8K to 4K scaler? Premium Support is all of this and more – but it’s the retro tier that has been transformative.

Our retro tier is higher-end at $15/£14.50 but it gives you all of the above – and it’s crucial in enabling the work of John Linneman and his colleagues in producing DF Retro videos with high-end production values and intense research and testing. The most recent project – a 100-minute documentary on Final Fantasy 13 – is available to supporters now and in the past we’ve delivered videos that catalogue the PS3’s 1080p catalogue, the early days of Gran Turismo on PS1 and PS2, the history of the Splatterhouse franchise, a deep dive into the Motorstorm trilogy and even a deep dive into Namco’s Klonoa. The Supporter Program also includes Patreon exclusive shows and early access to DF Retro Play.

The key point I want to make about the DF Supporter Program is how transformative and liberating it has become for us as creators. Digital Foundry is an independent business and has to support itself via YouTube revenue, very limited sponsorship opportunities (just four sponsored videos in 2022 vs around 20 videos created each month) – and supporter income.

The success of the Supporter Program has meant we’ve delivered on our promise to invest more resources in DF Retro and it’s also made us less reliant on highly volatile YouTube income. It’s also allowed us to bring in the brilliant Oliver Mackenzie as a freelancer, meaning the rest of the staff can spend more time on projects while allowing us to have a much better work/life balance – something that has been challenging for us in the past.

Today, I’m asking you to consider the DF Supporter Program again and here’s why: because we want to grow, we want to tackle new challenges and we want to do better. That starts with PC gaming. I think we’re in a golden age of excellent PC hardware coverage but what’s clear is that the same level of excellence does not apply to critiques of the actual PC gaming experience – who else has tackled the stuttering nightmare that PC gaming is becoming in a great many releases? Who else is providing feedback to game developers to make their settings and configuration options better? We’re also really proud of our drive for delivering optimised PC settings, the best bang for the buck in terms of visual quality vs performance in the latest PC titles. That often includes console-equivalent testing for PC ports, which gives us a valuable insight into how the developers themselves have settled on their own settings balance for resource-contrained hardware.

Historically, we’ve suggested improvements and changes to game makers behind the scenes to make console games better and that’s what we’re doing with PC too – but ultimately, the more resources we have, the better equipped we are to expand our PC coverage, where we only really have one full-time person on the team covering this huge topic. Other targets for DF going forward? We improved our proprietary analysis tools in 2020 but the fundamentals are still based on work we did way back in 2008. As 120Hz and VRR displays become more crucial to the console gaming experience, perhaps it’s time for another revamp.

While we’d love your support, I’d also like to stress that everyone benefits from this endeavour, whether you’re backing us or not. DF Retro major episodes, DF Retro EX, DF Retro Let’s Plays – supporters get early access but all major content eventually reaches the channel and is available to everyone.

Extra resources have allowed us to spend more time on content, meaning better quality – so that’s a net win for everyone too. Bringing Oliver onboard has made our lives so much easier in many ways too, and that’s all down to the DF Supporter Program.