Kotaku has been owned and operated by private equity-backed G/O Media since 2019 when it was sold by Univision, along with other sites formerly under the Gawker banner. The site network, which includes Gizmodo and The Onion (as well as the now-defunct Splinter) to name a few, has gone through a series of tumultuous ownership and business changes, most notably after the landmark Hulk Hogan invasion-of-privacy lawsuit that shut down its original ownership in 2016.
“I’ve been through a lot with this company. Since 2012, we’ve been through a whole lot of management shifts and resignations and firings and drama,” Schreier told The Post. “I’ve been through a lot of cataclysmic shifts because it always felt like, through it all, we were guided by people who always cared about journalism, and unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s the case anymore."
Schreier, 32, said his breaking point was when Deadspin fired senior editor Barry Petchesky for disagreeing with a management mandate to “stick to sports,” which angered journalists on staff who had cultivated a reputation for aggressive, off-color reporting and eccentric commentary. They argued it would betray the online readership and community borne out of their past work.
Schreier wasn’t the only editor to leave G/O Media this week. Just Wednesday, Gizmodo editor in chief Kelly Bourdet announced she was resigning.
He is also only the latest in a series of high-profile departures from Kotaku. In December, award-winning reporter Cecilia D’Anastasio (now at WIRED) wrote a farewell piece taking shots at G/O Media’s past decisions, including the dissolution of Gizmodo Media’s investigative reporting unit. Reporters Gita Jackson and Joshua Rivera also resigned in January, saying the new management made it “impossible for us to work here.”
In a statement to The Post, a G/O Media spokesperson said, “We thank Jason for his contributions to Kotaku and wish him well in his next venture.”
Over the years, Schreier has gained acclaim and notoriety for breaking numerous stories about labor practices in the gaming industry. His stories helped bring wider scrutiny to “crunch culture” and overwork inside large video game studios and publishers. Even rabid critics of Kotaku’s news coverage generally concede that Schreier’s reporting has been important to the industry. He’s also built a reputation of breaking insider-fueled stories packed with preliminary information about games.
Schreier’s stories often caused large companies to steer abruptly into damage-control mode, sometimes releasing press statements and posting blogs in direct response to his pieces. Minutes after Schreier posted a 2019 report on alleged mismanagement and overwork at Bioware for its game Anthem, the company put up a defensive blog post that called his work “unfair."
In 2018, Schreier reported on how 60-hour workweeks had become the norm at gaming giant Rockstar Games, makers of the blockbuster Grand Theft Auto series. For one of his final pieces at Kotaku, Schreier published a follow-up about how Rockstar’s work culture has improved since the issue was brought to light.
“I’ve been really happy to be someone to tell stories of people who don’t feel like they could go any place else, people who feel underrepresented or underserved,” Schreier told The Post. “They felt that their company has issues they want to speak out on, and they don’t know where else to turn. … The labor reporting is certainly something I’m proud of.”
Schreier initially worked at WIRED Magazine, covering video games. In 2011, he bumped into newly-minted Kotaku editor in chief Stephen Totilo, who convinced him to join Kotaku as a reporter.
Schreier most recently held the title of news editor at Kotaku. He stressed that he’s always loved working with Totilo and the rest of Kotaku’s “smart, tenacious editors, reporters, video producers and critics.”
During his time with the site, Schreier has written a book on labor and game development, “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made,” which went on to become a national best-selling title. His byline has also appeared in multiple publications, most recently the New York Times for a story about Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Totilo, who still runs Kotaku’s editorial staff, called Schreier a “stellar reporter who is unafraid to ask hard questions.”
“It was great to see his career develop at Kotaku, and I’m excited to follow his work everywhere it appears in the future,” said Totilo. “Just a tip to his future bosses: Line up any interviews you were hoping to do with Bethesda before he starts.” The joke is a cheeky reference to publishing giant Bethesda Softworks, which reportedly blacklisted Kotaku over the site’s and Schreier’s penchant for releasing early information about its games.
Schreier said he’s encouraged by how much games journalism has evolved, giving nods to longtime sites like IGN and GameSpot.
“I watched a lot of growth and evolution over the years, and I’ve been really encouraged,” he said. “I see a lot more gaming sites be more willing to rock the boat when it comes to game publishers and the people we cover. … You see a lot less of the puffery that was prevalent 20, 25 years ago.”
Schreier said his biggest concern about the industry going forward was the lack of money flowing to games media sites, many of which are reliant on freelance writers.
“I wish there were more money in the field to be doing the kind of reporting work that I think is really essential in keeping the gaming industry healthy, and that the people in power in games are held accountable,” Schreier said.