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Level up: why Channel 4 is rebooting GamesMaster as a social-first show

The classic 90s show is being revived in collaboration with Facebook

Channel 4 is set to bring back gaming-based competitive show GamesMaster in a partnership with Facebook. The show, which has been off screens for 23 years, pits celebrities against one another in a series of challenges in various video games across multiple genres.

The partnership will see the new shows premier first on E4’s YouTube channel, before a linear premier on E4 itself. It’s an acknowledgement of both the primacy of digital services for gaming-related content, in addition to catering for E4’s tech-savvy audience across multiple platforms.

Sacha Khari, head of digital commissioning at Channel 4, said: “GamesMaster was a household name back in the 90s and this new revamped version for social and E4 retains the elements that made this show so special, while also bringing it bang up to date, improving game quality and bringing in fresh and current names to tackle the trickiest GamesMaster challenges yet.”

Crucially, the series is also being produced in partnership with Facebook, which is in the middle of a huge investment in gaming and metaverse content itself. It recently announced Horizons Workrooms for its Oculus 2 VR platform, in addition to investing in creating exclusive games for the headset including the only official VR version of classic Resident Evil 4. Facebook Gaming has also been investing in making its gaming livestreaming platform on par with heavy-hitters such as YouTube Gaming and Twitch.

Aaron Hoffman, head of international marketing, Facebook Reality Labs, said: “GamesMaster is a show with cult status among the gaming community, so we’re really excited to be partnering with Channel 4 to combine that great gaming heritage with the fully immersive VR gameplay offered by Oculus Quest 2 from Facebook.

“By authentically embedding Quest 2 gameplay directly into the show, viewers and contestants will be exposed to an unrivalled VR gaming experience. We hope that diehard fans of the series will enjoy it and look forward to a whole new generation of fans discovering it.”

The tech surrounding VR platforms has evolved to the point that viewers will be able to see mixed reality gameplay in real time, as shown in the Beat Saber footage below.

While many of the details surrounding the branding, logo and even host of the new show are still to be revealed, the return of GamesMaster is a clever move from E4. It demonstrates both its ability to create content across multiple platforms, and to double down on the lucrative younger and tech-savvy audiences that it needs to monetize.

A consultation on the future of the publicly-owned channel ended yesterday; part of the government’s argument for privatizing the channel is that it cannot compete with streaming and livestreaming services. The deployment of GamesMaster across YouTube and social first is a refutation of that contention, plus a recognition that younger audiences tend to consume gaming content first away from linear television. Twitch alone, for example, sees nearly 3 million concurrent viewers on average.

Matt Ford, commercial lead for 4Studio, said: “It has been truly fantastic to bring a new lease of life to this nostalgic series, and partnering with Oculus Quest 2 from Facebook will add a whole new dimension of gameplay to this format.

“Not only that, but it’s the very first branded entertainment deal we’ve done that sees the series debut on social before its linear TX. We hope fans of the original series are going to love this reboot and I cannot wait to welcome a whole new audience to the GamesMaster world.”

Gaming is the most lucrative entertainment medium globally. Traditional broadcasters have dipped their toes into secondary consumption of games through broadcasting shows including Dara O’Briain’s Go 8 Bit and the BBC’s mid-00s show Time Commanders, as well as acquiring the broadcast rights to esports tournaments.

The return of GamesMaster has the potential to go beyond simply broadcasting shows based around games, however, and to reach those gaming audiences where they live. If it happens to act as a brand extension for Facebook’s Oculus platform and a defence of Channel 4’s public remit, all the better.

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