Newgrounds is an American entertainment and social media website and company. Founded on July 6, 1995, by Tom Fulp, the site presently hosts games, movies, audio and artwork in four respective hubs, or Portals. Tom Fulp remains the site's owner and still regularly produces in-house content. Its offices are headquartered in the Glenside neighborhood of Cheltenham Township on the northern border of Philadelphia.
In 1991, Tom Fulp launched a Neo Geo fanzine by the name "New Ground" (from the Greek roots neo- and geo- translated into English) from his parents' basement in Perkasie, PA, sending sporadic issues to around 100 members of a club on Prodigy. At this time New Ground was an entirely offline venue, and it was not until 1995 that he decided to create his own web page, naming it New Ground Remix to imply moving content online was the next step up in the brand's history.
New Ground Remix had a small amount of content, but did not gain a significant audience until summer of 1996, when Tom created the games "Club a Seal" and "Assassin," which brought viewers to New Ground based on their notoriety. In 1997, Fulp created the games "Club a Seal II" and "Assassin II," and decided that he wanted a new place to host these games. He created a separate website, New Ground Atomix, for this purpose.
In early 1998 Fulp began experimenting with Macromedia Flash. A Flash front page was introduced to New Ground Atomix and the flash game "Telebubby Fun Land" was released. Later that year, Fulp was contacted by Inside Edition about doing a segment on "Assassin", and decided he needed to give his online creations a name that would stick, settling on "Newgrounds". He redirected traffic from both of the older New Ground sites to Newgrounds, paying $33 per month out of pocket to host the site.
Fulp had to change hosts to accommodate increasing traffic, and started producing T-shirts in an attempt to pay off hosting fees. By 1999, traffic to Newgrounds was considerable and Fulp had to change hosts every few months. Banner ads were introduced to pay growing hosting bills, but Fulp was still unable to make ends meet. The current host of the Newgrounds site wanted over $1000 per month at the time, and Fulp was dropped by the only reliable advertisement revenue company due to the controversial content on NG. Running out of options, Fulp partnered with Troma, who hosted the site in exchange for a share of ad revenue.
Newgrounds' notoriety increased through a copyright infringement dispute with the BBC over Teletubby Fun Land, which was renamed Telebubby Fun Land as a result. The site received global attention, having been featured in Yahoo Internet Life magazine, Stuff Magazine, Internet Tonight (ZDTV), wired.com and many other media outlets.
Among other changes made to the site as the years went on, Fulp also added a chat room and message board, which allowed for an established community to build on Newgrounds. Many users had begun submitting their own Flash creations to Fulp, which he showcased in a portion of the site called "The Portal."
A friend of Fulp's by the name of Ross built the Grounds Gold system, which allowed users to gain points for visiting the site. Ad revenue had increased, so Fulp hired Ross and together they started development of the automated Portal. At the time, Fulp's creations still had the predominant placement on Newgrounds' front page; the automated Portal opened the floor to other artists, who submitted work that would soon surpass his own. Newgrounds was formed into the first Flash showcase site of this type through this change in content focus, from Fulp's own work to that of other Flash artists, though he continued to produce content of his own. The Newgrounds tank logo was introduced in 2000, and has been a mainstay for Newgrounds' brand identity ever since.
In the years that followed, the dot-com bubble had collapsed, and Newgrounds struggled to stay afloat while other entertainment websites soon went out of business; ad revenue was slow to come in, and hosting equipment needed to be upgraded as servers could not support the traffic. In 2002, a friend of Fulp's overhauled the site's PHP infrastructure to improve its slow performance and Troma allowed them to upgrade their servers, although their affiliation came to an end in 2003; hosting costs overall were significantly reduced once hosting was switched to a different bandwidth provider. The Audio Portal and multi-authorship system were introduced in this year, and the termination of the Troma contract gave Fulp's team full control of Newgrounds' servers, which ultimately resulted in moving them from Troma's original placement in New York City to a facility in Philadelphia. Options were also being considered for establishing a full-time office in the same city, which was eventually secured in the Glenside area in subsequent years.
2004 saw some fiscal recovery from the online market crash, as well as the beginning of the Time Trials on Newgrounds, which were collaborative animation competitions revolving around a central theme on a tight deadline, which soon came to be known as the NG Collab. The Audio Portal showcase on the front page was also debuted. The Numa Numa Dance viral phenomenon made its debut on Newgrounds near the end of the year, roughly a year before YouTube was launched, becoming one of the first viral videos to be known to the general public.
In 2005, Fulp made two guest appearances on Attack of the Show, and a head office for Newgrounds was procured in Glenside. Plans for a major overhaul of the site using CSS were underway through 2006; the Newgrounds tank logo was redesigned, and the site's slogan was changed from "The Problems of the Future, Today!" to "Everything, by Everyone". The Flash and Audio portals were given a more unified design with voting and reviews made to be common to both, and to compensate for the need for an Art Portal until the sitewide overhaul was complete, the Art Forum was launched. The initiating stages for the NG Store and merchandising aspect of the site were also seen in 2006.
The main focus of Newgrounds' staff in 2007 was the site redesign, a significant portion of which was launched on July 16, introducing the unified Flash and Audio Portals as well as overhauled user spaces, granting each user their own page instead of a basic profile. The User, Movie, Game of the Year and Tank Trophy awards debuted, and the NG Store was launched. An API toolset for Newgrounds was in development and would eventually allow ads, in-game achievements and other features to be run within Flash content, introducing a way for Flash artists to gather revenue and to better integrate their creations with Newgrounds as a site.
In 2008, tweaks to the Newgrounds API were ongoing, allowing for a revenue-splitting feature that allowed collaborating authors to determine revenue shares from Flash ads by percentage. Genre selections and tags for submitted movies and games were implemented. The NG Store was redesigned from scratch, as it had not been performing well since its initial launch.
Medals, the equivalent of in-game achievements, were introduced for the first time through the API in 2009, soon followed by a "Sharing" component that would allow user-generated content to be distributed within games, such as custom level designs. The Art Portal in its complete form was launched in June 2009. Work through 2010 and 2011 continued on aspects of the site redesign, until its complete launch on February 7, 2012. Features implemented included an improved browsing interface and a Project system to help users better manage their submitted content. Newgrounds also published their first mobile game, titled GroundCats, through the App Store in 2012.
As 2012 progressed, major changes included the launch of the video player, allowing users to publish movies that were not in .SWF format for the first time, and support for HTML5-coded games, which meant users were no longer limited to submitting movies and games made in Flash. A 12-month ad-free subscription option was also introduced at a price of $25, but the NG Store had been shut down in the first half of the year.
The home page of Newgrounds displays a showcase of the weekly and monthly top-scoring submissions on the site for the Movie, Game and Art Portals, as well as a newsfeed of posts from founder Tom Fulp. Menus to access a wider array of submissions for every portal are shown across the top banner of the site, allowing to browse based on popularity and date of submission.
Movie and Game Portals
Originally named the "Flash Portal" until Newgrounds began accepting non-Flash animations, the Movie Portal is a hub for Newgrounds users to submit watchable content. Registered users can submit new movies, either in the format of a .SWF Flash file, or as a video file (.MOV, .MP4, etc.; several types are acceptable). The Game Portal is a similar section of the site intended for users to submit games to Newgrounds. In recent years, as with the renamed and repurposed Movie Portal, the Game Portal has expanded its range of accepted content to games built in HTML5, Unity3D and Twine in addition to Flash games.
Beginning in 2011, the Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation (NATA) began as a 4-6 month long animation competition on Newgrounds sponsored by both Adobe and Tom Fulp. NATA 2012 concluded in early October and the prizes totaled at $2,500 in cash rewards, as well as Adobe Design software for the Champion. The competition pits animators against each other through scored Rounds where the animators have a certain amount of time to complete their entry. Entries are scored by a panel of judges in five categories: Artwork (4 Points), Animation (4 Points), Originality (4 Points), Structure (4 Points), and Entertainment (4 Points). Points from each judge tally up to a total of 20 possible points. With five judges, the total points possible for an entry is 100 Points.
The Art Portal is the section of the site reserved for posting works of visual art and graphic design. Aside from collages and photos taken for the purpose of showing sculpture or paintings that cannot be digitally scanned, works of photography are not permitted.
The Audio Portal is a specific section of Newgrounds where artists can submit music. The Audio Portal uses the same scouting process as the Art Portal; every prospective audio submitter must submit at least four works to the Portal and wait to be scouted by another, more tenured user before their submissions will be accessible on the Audio Portal main page. All the music is free to use (under a BY-NC-SA 3.0 Creative Commons license).
Uploaded files must conform to certain requirements:
- The file must have the extension .mp3.
- The file may not exceed the given capacity of 250MB.
- The file must be sampled at 44.1 kHz.
The main purpose of the Audio Portal at its inception was to prevent users from breaking copyright laws; users were using copyrighted songs in their submissions, at a risk of copyright holders potentially taking legal action against the site or its users. As such, the Audio Portal was introduced so that users could submit original work under a Creative Commons license. However, over the years the Audio Portal grew from simply being an audio resource for the Flash Portal to having its own active community - users took advantage of it as a nursing grounds to increase their talents before pitching themselves to major record labels. The Audio Portal was shut down three separate times early in its lifetime, but has nonetheless became a permanent feature of the site. It used to be that users were able to download songs from any other user, but once the scouting system was introduced to the Audio Portal, downloading songs uploaded by unscouted users was disabled due to their abuse of the Portal to steal songs for the game Geometry Dash, particularly for the game's custom levels.
Rating and review system
For all types of submitted content on Newgrounds, authors rate their submissions based on the presence and intensity of profanity, sexual themes, drugs, and violence. The ratings are only intended as a guide; there is no system in place to prevent the viewing of submissions of any specific rating aside from a brief disclaimer.
- E (Everyone) = Content suitable for viewers of all ages (aged 10+).
- T (Teens) = Content suitable for viewers aged 13+. Mild content, violence, etc.
- M (Mature) = Content suitable for viewers aged 17+. Explicit content, intense violence, drug use, mild nudity/sex, etc.
- A (Adult) = Content suitable for viewers aged 18+. Explicit content, excessive violence, excessive drug use, graphic nudity/sex, porn, etc.
Users can vote or write reviews on existing submissions in any Portal. This is based on an experience level-based system that gives users who have voted more frequently more weight to their votes, and specifically in the Movie and Game Portals, awards points to users who choose the winning vote on whether to approve ("Protect") or disapprove ("Blam") of new submissions in the initial judgment phase. Points are also awarded to users who "[blow the] whistle" or report content that violates core submission quality guidelines such as outright copyright violation or illegal content.
When content is submitted to its respective portal, it has the potential to win a number of awards based on its viewer ratings and review scores on a daily, weekly and monthly basis against other entries for their respective timeframe. The higher-level awards, such as being chosen as one of the best submissions of the month or of the year, can earn the submitter cash prizes and other benefits.
Newgrounds Forum (BBS)
The Newgrounds Forum community discusses various topics in forum categories ranging from site-related submissions to personal and off-topic discussion. The most popular section on the forum is "General" discussion which, as of September 4, 2013, houses more than 704,000 topics. The forums are often used to run competitions and community projects.
In 2007, Newgrounds started a basic store that was hosted completely on-site, selling shirts and stickers of different Newgrounds characters, such as Pico and the Tankmen. On August 19, 2008, Newgrounds launched its official store, selling more products including those made by other Newgrounds artists. Items for sale included many T-shirts with popular and successful artists or their work, as well as keychains, stickers, discs, toys, comics, posters, patches and DVDs depicting popular Flash series. The Newgrounds community would collaborate to create works like a yearly calendar and writing anthologies. The Newgrounds store exited the physical goods market on March 5, 2014, after members of the staff resigned to work on other projects.
Since the Newgrounds API was released and users were allowed to split their earnings between authors, users have been donating a portion of their earnings to charities by creating and sharing accounts which resemble the names of the charities for donating. This began in 2009, when a user, ForNoReason, took it upon himself to organize flash artists.
- The Yellow Ribbon Fund supports injured service men and women and their families.
- Breast Cancer Awareness supports awareness and research for the cure of breast cancer.
- CARE was introduced in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
In the media
- Teletubbies: In 1998, Tom Fulp of Newgrounds created a spoof of Teletubbies called Teletubby Fun Land which resulted in a lawsuit from the BBC. This resulted in a boost of notoriety and media exposure, and the game was renamed Telebubby Fun Land.
- Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game: In mid-2002, Newgrounds received notoriety for hosting Kaboom!, a game in which the player controls an apparent suicide bomber who kills men, women and children. Despite receiving criticism and calls for its removal from the internet by congresswoman Nita Lowey, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, and other groups, Newgrounds continued to host the game.
- Numa Numa Dance: Gary Brolsma first published his "Numa Numa Dance" on Newgrounds on December 6, 2004, where it has since been viewed more than 15 million times, and copied onto hundreds of other websites and blogs. He has also received mainstream media coverage on Good Morning America, The Tonight Show and Best Week Ever, and, according to The New York Times, was an "unwilling and embarrassed Web celebrity." On September 8, 2006, he reappeared with a professionally produced video titled New Numa. On November 14, 2007, he posted another Numa video on YouTube, entitled Numa Three: Crazy Loop!
- Jeff Weise: Jeff Weise, infamous for the 2005 Red Lake shootings, posted a violent animation on Newgrounds.com. Its existence was discovered and reported after the massacre.
- Attack of the Show! From July 5–8, 2005, Tom Fulp was a co-host on Attack of the Show!; he would showcase and describe popular Newgrounds Flash submissions.
- The Torture Game 2: Since 2008, Newgrounds hosts a game in which a player tortures a lifeless rag doll-like human. The game sparked controversy, receiving short airtime on Fox News in 2011.
- Sirtom93 arrest: Sirtom93, an active user on the Newgrounds BBS from England, posted a thread on Newgrounds, on March 17, 2009, describing how he would burn down his school with gasoline. He was caught and arrested after site administrators and users collected his personal information and forwarded it to the local police. The newspaper in Sirtom's area did not mention Newgrounds by name.
- Video games: Video games released by development company The Behemoth have credited Newgrounds. Newgrounds is also credited in Team Meat's Super Meat Boy which, like Alien Hominid, was originally a flash game on Newgrounds.
Newgrounds hosts and participates in many events throughout the year to give users a chance to meet each other or to interact in general. Some events are organized by regulars but usually by forum moderators and site administrators.