Rooster Teeth, home of Red Vs. Blue and RWBY, shutting down after 21 years

Enlarge / Near the height of its powers in 2018, Rooster Teeth’s annual RTX conference was drawing more than 62,000 people to Austin, Texas, each year.

Nathan Mattise

Rooster Teeth, a studio that pioneered machinima with its Red vs. Blue series and went on to develop a fandom-focused stable of shows, videos, and podcasts, is being shut down by parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) was unsuccessful in trying to sell the company as a whole, according to a company memo obtained by Variety (and later published on Rooster Teeth’s site). Rooster Teeth’s general manager pinned the closure on “challenges facing digital media resulting from fundamental shifts in consumer behavior and monetization across platforms, advertising, and patronage.”

WBD is still looking to sell certain Rooster Teeth series’ backlogs and rights, including RWBY, Red vs. Blue, and Gen:Lock, an animated mecha series backed by actor Michael B. Jordan. WBD is also looking to offload the company’s Roost podcast network.

Rooster Teeth was founded in 2003, rising to prominence with Red vs. Blue, a series of comedic, scripted videos about warring groups of soldiers that used multiplayer game footage from the Halo series as its visual component. Ars forum regulars kept up with the series early on, and our writers checked in on this thing called machinima in 2005. This year’s season of Red vs. Blue had already been set to be the last before Rooster Teeth’s announced closure. The company’s name is a slightly more polite version of a disparaging remark (“cock bite”) made about the series narrator early on.

The company capitalized on its audience and style to venture into more gaming and adjacent content, including “Let’s Play” series, podcasts, and video series. By 2015, the company had been acquired by Warner Bros. subsidiary Fullscreen and released its first crowdfunded film, Lazer Team. In 2016, the company had roughly 225,000 paying subscribers for its “First” early access video service.

Rooster Teeth was moved around and re-aligned quite a few times before 2021, when parent company AT&T, which owned WarnerMedia at the time, was looking to sell it. Rooster Teeth was kept, however, and was included in the transition to the Warner Bros. Discovery conglomerate.

Rooster Teeth’s corporate culture and sexual harassment tolerance came under scrutiny repeatedly. Amid allegations and acknowledgments of a crunch culture, discrimination, harassment, and underwhelming or non-existent response from managers, the company underwent a rebrand for its 20th anniversary in April 2023, with a new logo and a new “Just Playing” tagline.

Despite efforts to reduce expenses, the company had not been profitable for at least a decade. As of this week’s announcement, its subscriber base was close to 60,000, according to Variety. RTX, a gaming and Internet culture conference held in Austin, Texas, by the company since 2011, was canceled for 2024. According to general manager Jordan Levin, the show had “never been profitable for us.” In 2018, Ars features editor emeritus Nathan Mattise visited RTX, calling it the “biggest gaming and Internet event you’ve never heard of.”

As noted in yesterday’s post about a Warner Bros. Discovery property scuttling, the conglomerate has been on a cost-cutting and catalog-thinning streak of late, potentially driven by tax break opportunities. It has shut down fully produced films before they were available, including Batgirl and Coyote vs. Acme, and cut content at its streaming offering, Max, including recently canceled shows and, in particular, animation and kids’ programming. Until recently, the firm had been considering yet another merger with Paramount, though talks on that deal ended late last month.

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