An Interview with Drift0r, the YouTube Call of Duty Wizard
Brad Overbey, better known by his online alias Drift0r, is a successful YouTube personality best known for his Call of Duty coverage. His famous In Depth series, which has covered Call of Duty since the first Black Ops over six years ago, has gained him a lot of respect from the community, as he presents hard numbers and facts to statistically show which weapons, attachments, and perks are the best to use.
With 1.2 million subscribers and 292 million views, his channel's influence has brought him into the top echelon of first-person-shooter YouTubers, granting him access to private events with publishers and developers such as Activision and Dice.
Drift0r managed to carve out a slot in his busy schedule of covering Call of Duty World War II news, streaming Overwatch, and his new Sniper Ghost Warrior In Depth series, to talk to us about the future of his channel and Call of Duty.
Disclaimer: To ensure full transparency, the interviewer is a longtime subscriber, sponsor, and moderator of Drift0r's main and secondary channel.
GS: To start off, I’m curious how this last year has been. You adamantly stuck to your guns and refused to cover Infinite Warfare, so you replaced its coverage with Modern Warfare Remastered In Depth, while also reviving the Drift0rPlays channel for other games like Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. How has all of this affected you and your channels?
D: In short, this has been the hardest and most costly decision that I have ever made. Maybe ever. MWR In Depth did okay-ish for a short while but was never as popular as Infinite Warfare content. Audience interest in it died much quicker than I expected. This caused me to lose about 80% of my income for the last six months and is projected to stay at 80% loss for the rest of this year. I also have been losing subscribers every single month, except for this one. Subscriber growth is finally back in the green. The greater CoD Community and many of my fans viewed this decision a betrayal.
I have always provided guides and the community has always supported me in return. Deciding not to post a game for moral reasons was not viewed highly by everyone. Of course, many of my fans understood and continued to support me, but not all. Perhaps more frustrating was that I became a scapegoat for various things and the CoD community outside of my fan base. The last six months has been incredibly difficult for me.
Reviving Drift0rPlays was a VERY recent decision and mostly just so that I can stream more casual Overwatch. I plan to promote it some after I've been streaming on it consistently for a few months.
GS: Looking toward the future, are you at all concerned with the so-called “Ad-pocalypse”? You said on Twitter that your CPMs are pretty high and most of your Non-Ad-Friendly strikes are reversed within an hour, but do you fear it will only get worse?
D: I am very afraid. I feel that I may be next on the chopping block. Imagine working a job that pays $10/hr but is subject to being permanently reduced to $1/hr based on the decisions of AI chatbot. Google/YouTube means well, but they frequently make broad sweeping changes with no warning or input from creators. They can change the monetization rules, copyright rules, ad types, community rules, or how the search engine works at any time for any reason. Seeing this happen to other CoD channels worries me.
GS: Do you have any ideas, theories, or just thoughts in general, about how consumers can affect the more restrictive ad strikes facing their favorite channels and creators?
D: Be vocal about it and keep watching whatever they want is the best thing.
GS: Throughout the years, you’ve had a few expansions for Drift0r as a brand, including merchandise (both professional and homemade), owning part of Team EnVyUs, and Drift0r Mobile. Are these indicative of your long-term goals with the Drift0r name?
D: I have no idea, honestly. I should be more proactive in brand building with merchandise and complementing services. However, I'm lazy and tend to just focus on my videos. Brand extensions tend to kind of come and go at random for me. I also am kind of bad about following up on designs. Long-term goals seem impossible to me. Given how YouTube works, it feels as if I am surfing a wave of chaos and liable to fall off any given moment.
GS: Pulling back to your short-term goals, how hopeful are you that this year’s Call of Duty WWII will be less supply-drop focused, more in-line with your personal ethics, and therefore permitted to coverage on your channel?
D: Primarily, I hope that CoD WWII is a great game. I want it to be good from a gameplay standpoint. If the game itself plays well, then it will do well on YouTube. Supply drops of some kind are almost certainly coming, but I hope that they are more consumer friendly and/or era authentic. If it gets too silly, it will push people away. Also, having poor long-term value will push people away. Supply drops would not be nearly as bad if I could carry them over from game to game.
GS: Following up on CoD:WWII, you said during a livestream that you prefer a modern setting over returning to World War II, but would gladly take this over another title like Infinite Warfare. Do you think WWII will bring the resurgence of players that Call of Duty lost over the last few years?
D: It is hard to say if CoD WWII will bring players back because you then have to ask where they left from. Are they fans of CoD4? MW2? The Black Ops series? Black Ops before Jetpacks? Advanced Warfare? Ghosts? All of these games are very different and many players seek to return to the roots in different places. What I am hoping is that WWII will bring in people from outside the CoD community.
GS: With a promising new title like CoD:WWII on the horizon, do you plan to continue smaller-running series such as Overwatch In Depth after its release?
D: I adore Overwatch and think it is the best shooter made in the last decade. I will absolutely continue streaming, playing, and making In Depth for it. My In Depth episodes might be a little slow, but I do them for my own enjoyment. Breaking down characters helps me learn about them, too.
GS: Your channel has also prominently featured non-video game related videos about a bevy of topics like economics, religion, psychology, spirituality, and a variety of personal stories from your own life. Can your fans expect this type of (occasionally controversial) video to continue as your channel grows in popularity?
D: I probably won't ever quit making the personal, religious, philosophical, or political videos. Part of doing YouTube is making content that is important to you. Sometimes those topics are important to me, and I want to talk about them. Also, sometimes I see it as doing some good in the world to try to encourage critical thinking. Often times, those videos are the most satisfying for me to make. What I really need to do is find a better platform for them that isn't gaming but can still generate similar views.
I think I am in love with tomorrow's video thumbnail: pic.twitter.com/Htmay63LGz— Drift0r (@Drift0r) February 16, 2017
GS: With your channel featuring a number of series throughout the years and your background of creating short films, do you ever consider returning to creating original content? If so, could you tell us about some of your ideas?
D: I am a bit of day dreamer and have hundreds of half-baked ideas and short scripts sitting around. The problem with short films and original content is that they are HARD. They are much harder and more expensive than you think. Some people do it and make it look easy. However, that is not true. Often, they spent years learning how to do these things quickly and efficiently. YouTube as a platform generally doesn't reward high-budget or high-effort videos. Single day filming and 1-2 day edits are the limits of profitability and sustainability for most channels.
All that being said, I want to turn some of my dream stories into comic books. I tried contacting some people in the comic book industry and got a lot of "I don't care." I think doing some script doctoring would be fun, along with film consulting. I actually love acting and being on camera, so anything like that would be super fun for me. Honestly, I think movie studios should be having YouTubers do cameos in films for easy promotion.
GS: If you were elected Lead Designer of the next Call of Duty with absolute authority and creative control, what would your setting be and how would it affect gameplay?
D: I would set it in the late 1980's during the end of the Cold War. The single player would be 90% stealth missions and have very few big action set pieces. It would all run as covert ops type stuff -- a lot like CoD 4. The story would focus on characters struggling with moral choices, incorrect/incomplete information, and unexpected consequences of their missions.
I'd love to see it have a few unique failure states that are technically valid endings, such as causing nuclear war, falling through ice, or going to jail for shooting an ally. Hoard mode would be Dinosaurs and take place in the Congo River Basin where Mokele-mbembe supposedly lives.
Gameplay would ideally have the CoD 'feel' in that everything is smooth, fast, and not clunky, while still having a few extra punishing features for realism. If it gets a VR mission, I would love for the player to control a robot to spy on people... or do a HALO Jump in real time.
GS: In addition to checking out your pair of channels, how else can people get at and support you? Anything you want to shoutout or tease?
GS: Bonus: Are you aware, that as of the time of this writing, you follow 666 people on Twitter?
D: I follow and unfollow people all the time. Don't worry too much about the numbers.
Thank you Drift0r for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.
You can catch him on his main channel, where he's usually covering Call of Duty and troubles of the mind, his second channel, where he streams casual hangouts in games like Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm, and on Twitter, where he relays his strange day-to-day interactions.