RTX at Home Rethinks the Fan Community Space

Rooster Teeth’s massive annual gathering moves to online

RTX, IRL: The halcyon days of RTX 2018 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

This year, festival after festival has been working hard on how to put their event online. Rooster Teeth has a different problem: If you're already a streaming specialist, and you've been producing endless extra content during the coronavirus lockdown, how do you make an online version of your big annual fan gathering feel like something truly special? That's why the team behind the Austin-based online studio – home to streaming success stories like the groundbreaking Red vs. Blue, American anime RWBY, HBO Max's gen:LOCK, and dozens more shows and podcasts – is pulling out the stops for the first all-digital version of its annual RTX gathering, RTX at Home.

In the 10 years since the first RTX (basically an extended studio tour) the fan fest has grown into a multi-day show that fills out the Austin Convention Center. For the 10th anniversary, the team planned the biggest show ever, but with large gatherings in Austin impossible, the date first shifted from the first weekend in July to Labor Day, and finally to online across Sept. 15-25. However, Senior Events Manager Clarissa Gonzalez said, "The whole time we were planning for Labor Day we knew that a virtual event could be a possibility."

As a digitally native company, beating YouTube to the streaming game by two years, ramping up online content to meet never-greater demand from its huge and loyal fanbase was a natural step. Weekly, the team is creating dozens of hours of fresh live and scripted programming, streaming both for free and via their subscription Rooster Teeth First service. Rooster Teeth Head of Broadcast Patrick Salazar said, "14-hour days are the norm."

Yet RTX at Home cannot just feel like more of that new content. It needs what Gonzalez called "the chaotic energy" of the in-person experience. "We definitely thrive on that," she said. It also meant rebuilding the schedule from, if not scratch, then with a radically shifted emphasis. "RTX is a full year of planning," Gonzalez said, "and it's not an easy boat to pivot."

Luckily, there are a lot of other boats out there, trying to change direction and trying to learn from comparable fests about making the online jump. The fall film festivals have implemented the lessons learned by their spring and summer siblings. Corporations that run big conferences have had a slightly different set of demands in creating a B2B – business-to-business – event. However, Salazar said, with RTX, "It's not B2B but B2C" – business-to-consumer or, in their case, business-to-community.

That's the word that's been central to organizing RTX at Home. RTX has always been about gathering Rooster Teeth's global community together in one shared physical space. For RTX at Home to have any meaning, Gonzalez said, "It's finding a way to have the community space be involved, so they're having more impact than being just a viewer."

That's why they've been taking notes from big, fan-centric events like DC FanDome and San Diego Comic-Con, and will be creating opportunities for fans to engage directly with the content – just like an IRL RTX. Gonzalez said, "We approach this as a show, and not just an event."

RTX at Home runs Sept. 15-25. Tickets and details at www.rtxevent.com.

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Rooster Teeth, RTX at Home, virtual fests, Clarissa Gonzalez, Patrick Salazar

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