Andrew, better known to the community as "Nintendrew" on YouTube, has grown over 100,000 Subscribers in less than 12 months! He sat down with Smash JT to discuss his successes in greater detail.
SMASH JT: Hi Drew, thanks so much for taking the time to talk! You’ve done an incredible job focusing on Nintendo products since your channel name changed from 'DaManWitDaPlan' a couple years ago. Many people have taken notice of your channel since this rebranding, and I’m sure they’d love to hear more about how you found success!
First things first though, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, a resume snippet per se?
Sure, here's a basic background of who I am!
● Used to work as a game engineer/programmer for a couple local companies
● BS degree in comp. science
● Came from a pretty sheltered upbringing; Video game consoles were not allowed at home as I grew up in the 90s/early 00s
● Ran my youtube channel for 10 years before settling on weekly gaming content
SMASH JT: You clearly have enough experience to be successful in the technical workforce. What inspired you to start dedicating yourself to a YouTube channel?
NINTENDREW: Well, when I really put my mind to it and started uploading weekly gaming videos, my biggest inspiration was from the channels I would watch every week. I’ve been collecting retro games for years - ever since I was a teenager - but my hobby really started to become more important to me around 3 or 4 years ago. As I started to take retro gaming more seriously, I inevitably found some of the best retro gaming YouTubers - especially MetalJesusRocks, John Riggs, and that whole crew. At some point, I realized “Hey… I’ve got some cool ideas that they haven’t covered yet. I could do this!” and started to chronicle the discoveries I found through my experience with the hobby.
SMASH JT: Did you have big aspirations, or was it just a place to upload videos for fun?
NINTENDREW: No, not at all. I don’t think it’s still out there, but my first real video that I put together in my current format/style showcased my first “game room” back in 2016. I made that video because lots of my friends and family had seen photos of my game room and were shocked/amazed. I figured if they were impressed by a couple photos, maybe a few people on YouTube would want to see a tour! It was a hit - at least by my standards at the time. After a few more solid uploads like that, I knew I had found something special.
SMASH JT: I remember watching that video and being extremely impressed by such an awesome collection! Even though you’ve grown fast, I’m sure you’ve faced many challenges along the way. What are some of the biggest struggles you’ve had while growing the channel?
NINTENDREW: Shortly after I started making gaming videos, in January of last year (2017) I was laid off from my day job. At that point, I still wasn’t making any money from YouTube, but I knew it was starting to take off and I was having a great time coming up with new concepts for videos each week. So, after a few months of job-searching with no results, I took a big risk and decided to focus solely on YouTube while living off of some money I’d put away during the previous year. I told myself that as long as I kept seeing strong channel growth each month, I’d keep working on expanding my audience and making great content. Fortunately for me, that growth hasn’t stopped yet! Just as I ran out of savings, my channel started turning a profit - at least enough to cover my rent and bills. It was pretty much perfect timing!
SMASH JT: That's incredible timing, and great to hear things worked out! I saw you’ve been featured on articles from NintendoLife.com. How did that happen?
NINTENDREW: I guess you could say my first ‘viral’ video was about the Nintendo Switch as a VR platform. In a nutshell, I took my Nintendo Switch and used a web exploit to run custom 3D footage on the console, then used it with a generic tablet VR headset to analyze the system’s viability for VR. This was at a time when the Internet was abuzz with rumors of a Switch VR headset following a conspicuous patent from Nintendo themselves. I knew when I made the video that it was, at the very least, an interesting and original concept, so I reached out to a few Nintendo-based news outlets (including Nintendo Life) in an effort to spread the word and increase viewership. What followed was what I can only describe as a media avalanche of coverage from a variety of established outlets including The Verge, Ars Technica, Geek.com, and other prominent sources. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s this: If you have newsworthy content, spread the word!
SMASH JT: That's a great idea, something many creators probably never even consider! Speaking of successful videos, what’s your favorite video that you’ve made?
NINTENDREW: Ah, man. The one I’m most proud of is probably the video on my complete Virtual Boy US library. For that video I had to not only hunt down and find each of the 14 titles released in America in the months prior, but I also played through every title and gave each of them an unbiased and critical review. It ended up that I managed to showcase and critique all 14 titles in one compilation, and I think it turned out pretty well. The Virtual Boy also presented a unique challenge since it has no tv/video output, so I had to do some deep research to find a solid method of emulation to record footage for the video. The system is on the obscure side, so emulation isn’t quite as solid as it tends to be for bigger Nintendo platforms.
SMASH JT: Very cool! The Virtual Boy always seemed to have a niche following, even when it failed to sell initially. Did you always intend for your channel to have the unique focus on Nintendo that it does, like niche topics on repro games and Japanese imports; or did that kind of work its way out naturally over time?
NINTENDREW: Well, I mentioned before that it basically started as a way for me to chronicle my hobby of retro game collecting. So no, I wouldn’t say I always had a handle on the specific niche(s) of my channel’s content. But, in a way, I kinda did at the same time. What I mean by that is that I have always made videos based on what surprises me and catches my eye throughout my ‘adventures in retro gaming’. So, as an example - A couple months back I made a video on “5 N64 Games that were Ahead of their Time”. The headliner of that bunch was “Morita Shougi 64” - a Japanese-exclusive N64 title which had a 56k modem built into the cartridge. I first learned about that game from a post on Twitter. I saw the photo of the cartridge and said “Whoa. That exists?!”. Whenever something like that gets me excited about retrogaming, I know I’ve got a good topic for a new video.
SMASH JT: That's a great way to find unique ideas for videos! Speaking of finding ideas, what YouTube creators have you taken inspiration from?
NINTENDREW: Definitely MetalJesusRocks, first and foremost. His whole crew (John Riggs, Kelsey Lewin, Radical Reggie, Kinsey Burke, John Hancock, etc.) are great. It’s funny that people often tell me I look like Chadtronic - I took a good bit of inspiration on overall branding and presentation from him as well. On the topic of DIY projects and how-to videos, I’ve always been inspired by makers like Ben Heck. I can’t claim to know a fraction of what he does about hardware/electrical engineering, but I do think a healthy dose of awe and curiosity has lent a more hands-on edge to some of my uploads - stuff like my full-size Nintendo Switch arcade cabinet or DIY Nintendo 64 Classic Edition.
SMASH JT: Those are all incredible channels! The stuff Ben Heck covers is way over my head but he always has a way of explaining it in plain English. What are your future plans for the Nintendrew YouTube channel?
NINTENDREW: Right now I’m just content to keep riding the wave and see where it takes me! I’ve been humbled to see such a great response in my first full year from the community, and I hope I can keep that energy going for years to come. I’ve got a few convention appearances planned for this year, and I’d love to keep that ball rolling. I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and it’s super encouraging to meet real viewers face-to-face and realize that I’m not just making these videos in a vacuum. As far as more concrete goals go, I’d like to make enough revenue from YouTube in 2018 that I could hire a dedicated video editor and work to produce even more uploads every week.
SMASH JT: A full time video editor sounds like a dream come true for so many creators out there! Finally, what advice do you have for smaller channels out there looking to find some similar success?
NINTENDREW: There’s not any one magic key to finding success on YouTube, or anywhere for that matter. But my biggest piece of advice would be to always make the videos that you want to watch. Always try to analyze your work and see what you can improve on for the next one. Think about your biggest inspirations, and ask yourself “What videos have they not made that I would want to see?”. Then, fill that gap!
SMASH JT: Incredible advice, and I couldn't agree more! Thank you so much again for your time, Drew. I’m sure there’s a lot of great stuff people will be able to take from your experiences. On a personal note, I’m a big fan of your channel and appreciate the effort that goes into each video you make. Being a creator myself, I could only imagine the behind the scenes over there that we don’t get to see on camera!
NINTENDREW: Thanks a lot, Jeff. And best of luck to all the up-and-coming content creators!