Interview: Nick Day reflects on RAID: Call of the Arbiter and what the future has in store for the animated series

Interview: Nick Day reflects on RAID: Call of the Arbiter and what the future has in store for the animated series

RAID: Shadow Legends' animated web series, Call of the Arbiter, recently wrapped up its ten-episode run over on YouTube. The show proved successful enough that, at some point, we can expect a second season, which will no doubt please the avid fans the show has created.

We recently spoke to Nick Day, VP of Creative at Plarium, about Call of the Arbiter. Together, we discussed why the team decided now was the right time for an animated series, why the episodes were fairly short, and when we can expect news on season two.

Could you introduce yourself and your role at Plarium to our readers, please?

I’m Nick Day, VP of Creative at Plarium and one of the Executive Producers for RAID: Call of the Arbiter. I head the Creative Department at Plarium, which straddles the content side of our games and marketing activity. For RAID, this includes building out much of the game brand, in-game content, lore, characters, and community campaigns. On Call of the Arbiter, as an Executive Producer, I work alongside Plarium, our parent company Pixel United, and our production partners to guide the creative development of the series and ensure it meets our fan expectations.

Why did you decide now was the right time to create an animated series based on RAID: Shadow Legends?

If you look at what’s happening in the entertainment industry, the past few years has seen the transmedia ecosystem between game, film, and streaming IP explode. From early-movers like Angry Birds to Gran Turismo, The Witcher, Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunner, and Sonic - fans have new expectations on how they engage with games and their universes. We’re all a long way past the Uwe Boll era of the early 2000s. If Mattel can develop a cinematic universe based on Barbie, Magic 8 Ball, and Uno, anything feels possible for a world with as many characters and stories to tell as RAID.

That’s the big industry picture, but for us, the decision to take a shot at this was triggered by a couple of factors. Back in 2019, we started releasing our “RAID in real life” commercial campaigns, and that’s when we really started seeing demand for a long-form portrayal of the game characters. People who didn’t even play the game wanted to learn more about them. We read thousands of comments demanding we make a show of some kind, and as the game grew, we were convinced this was something that would go over well.
It also helped that we were in the process of integrating more lore and story in the game and the community content. We decided to combine those initiatives to really give the fans something big, and expand out the world and stories behind their favorite characters.

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We were fortunate in that Plarium’s parent company, Pixel United, has a wealth of entertainment industry experience. The CEO, Mike Lang, was formerly a senior executive at Fox and Discovery, and ran Miramax’s film and TV unit. Our North America Head of Business Development, Gary Rosenfeld, has been in this space for years across games, film, television and licensing. When we brought this concept to them, they immediately saw the potential and value in building out the IP, and were able to offer the strategy, support, and introductions we needed. Without that layer, we wouldn’t have been able to start off with names like Eric Rollman and Jay Oliva attached to the core creative team.

Finally - and this is really the blue sky goal - RAID has been the biggest scale project Plarium has taken on. It has hundreds of characters, a massive following, and years of investment. This series lets us lay the groundwork to take that success and start turning into something bigger.

The episodes themselves are fairly short at between five and six minutes. Was there a particular reason why you decided to go down this route?

When we laid out the goals for this, we treated it as a proof of concept. We wanted to demonstrate the characters and art style, understand the production pipeline, and - most importantly - test the audience's appetite for a longer-form streaming series. We didn’t set out to make a full-length series first but to show a condensed version of what one could look like to our players and potential partners before making that leap.

How has the reception been from fans?

Unbelievable. Statistically, we saw an average 93% positive sentiment across all the episodes. It’s been the most overwhelmingly enthusiastic reaction to anything we’ve done since the RAID launch. We heard a lot of feedback that putting more story behind the champions added much more emotional connection to them, and the world they live in. The fact that they also met the new characters from the series in-game as they were introduced in the show was also very cool.

What really struck us when looking at the viewing habits was that they were engaged. People were rewatching full episodes, jumping around to catch foreshadowing, and replaying scenes with their favorite characters. For me, that was the most exciting part. Seeing fans care and become invested in the characters and curious about the rest of the world.

Overwhelmingly, the biggest thing we heard is that they want another season, that they want more episodes, longer episodes, and a deeper dive into the characters than we had a chance to show. That’s a response we’re extremely happy with, and we’re already diving into work on Season 2.

The series has received millions of views during its run. Did you expect it to perform this well? If not, what were you hoping before the first episode went live?

Our optimistic high-end target for this was 10 million views across all episodes. We hit 19 million the day after the final episode dropped, so it’s safe to say that we’re pretty happy with the results.

Has the animated series led to an increase in interest in RAID: Shadow Legends?

It’s too early to say. The animation has just finished its run, so we will have follow-up surveys and analysis in the coming months to get a more accurate picture as the numbers roll in. As early indicators, we’ve seen increases in searches for RAID terms, and overwhelmingly positive feedback online, with many commenting on how the series has rekindled a new interest from RAID's current and lapsed players. We’ve also seen a meaningful increase in organic traffic and registrations.

I also can absolutely say we’re seeing a different kind of interest than anything we’ve seen before, including getting a lot of calls from outside the game industry asking what else we have planned for the brand. We’re excited to see where this leads.

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What have you learned from the animated series run?

Our biggest question: does RAID have a story to tell, and a world interesting enough to tell it in? That’s a resounding “yes”. There’s something special here, and that’s what we really hoped to learn.

Can we expect another animated series in the future? If so, do you think it will follow on from the current story or follow an entirely new set of characters?

We’ve just formally announced the start of work on season 2, and we’re actively looking to engage with other distributors to take Call of the Arbiter to a broader audience. Beyond the current series, we’re also having parallel talks about exploring even larger scale partnerships around RAID.

As for the next season, we’re exploring different variants of how the series will continue. We’ve got more than 700 different characters and about ten thousand years of lore written, so there’s a lot of places we could take it. Everything is on the table right now.

Our work for the next couple of weeks will be spending time with our management, partners, community leaders and players to determine what worked and what didn’t, and taking that back into our planning and writer's rooms. We hope to share more of what comes out of these next steps in the coming months.

Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.