Last week saw the death of WoW Insider and Massively, two properties under the Joystiq brand which didn’t make the leap to Engadget the way the parent domain did. However, like mythical fire birds rising from piles of ash, both sites have decided to keep their teams more or less intact and make a go of it through crowdfunding. However, they are approaching things in very different ways.
First, we’ll start with WoW Insider’s team, now called BlizzardWatch. Now, the name isn’t great, but does give them wiggle room to expand outside of World of Warcraft. Blizzard isn’t a bad niche to place yourself in, especially if recent numbers about Hearthstone are anything to be believed. Prior to its closure, I think it would be safe to state that WoW Insider’s peak had come at some other point. I know, out of my own experience, that when I recently looked towards WoW Insider to help me find my way back into that behemoth of an MMO, I was left wondering what had happened. The information presented wasn’t particularly useful and there were quite a lot of articles about pets, transmogs, and thoughts on the LFR system – not exactly the content you’re looking for when you just want to figure out what to play these days.
However, they hadn’t gone quite too far down hill, as evidenced by their Patreon fundraising efforts immediately after their closure. Within days, the Patreon has shot up to a monthly commitment of 13,000 USD from well over 2500 patrons. Not too shabby. The same day that wow.joystiq.com no longer became an active website, blizzardwatch.com was up and running with some bare-bones content hitting the page. All in all, they did a pretty great job of making the transition and (hopefully) now have the operating capital to keep most of their staff together, if on a part time basis.
Then we have the gang at Massively. At last public count, they were hitting about 3.3 million pageviews each month (for reference, TheMittani.com hits 2.2 million pageviews pretty comfortably each month). Their content was an echo of Joystiq’s approach to gaming – mostly news pieces about every MMO under the sun. As a result, their front page could at any given time be a motley assortment of Asian-market MMOs, vaporware, or future free-to-play games that hadn’t embraced their destiny quite yet. Not exactly compelling content. Of course, those who were around for ‘KillYourselfGate’ back in the day will be quite familiar with the fact that Massively struggled at times to provide in-depth coverage of niche MMOs (to be fair, that’s a hard thing to do). In short, they may have been a little further down the hill from their glory days than WoW Insider.
Massively also chose to go with a more “direct descendant” approach with their new name – Massively OP, or Massively Overpowered. Their website was not functioning at the time that Massively posted its last bit of news, and all in all things seemed a little less organized – at least, until their Kickstarter came out. While MOP has not eliminated the possibility of utilizing Patreon as an avenue of fundraising in the future, they felt that their new version of MMO news coverage needed a bit of a kick… (Okay, groan now). Within just a couple days, their kickstarter had achieved its goal of $50,000 USD. However, there are a couple things that still stand out to me as less-than-auspicious starts to their time on the internet: a Google search for Massively OP doesn’t bring up their website; going to MassivelyOP.com for some reason redirects to massivelyop.net, which is just weird; and well over a week (and a successful kickstarter waiting to conclude) later, we still haven’t even the faintest whisper of a wordpress install and some basic content updates.
I pinged the folks at Massively on Twitter regarding their business plan – i.e. how long was that 50k supposed to last, and towards what specifically would that be going? – and received an answer of 3 months. I found this to be an interesting timeframe, as it’s about the same amount of money over the same timeframe that BlizzardWatch was able to raise – just in a different format.
Both sites have stated that they will still be pursuing traditional ad-based revenue streams as their old sites did, in addition to the crowdfunding, which is what really makes this quite interesting to me. Will these things be compatible? Will the startups just ditch ads at a certain point? Why pursue them in the first place? Speaking from experience, they are already making more via crowdfunding per month than they could have from ad revenue. Ads are, at their heart, a really bad way for sites to make money, and a really poor way for gaming companies to invest their money in the gaming media.
At any rate, I’m quite happy to see both sites looking like they will at least have the opportunity to make a go of things in 2015!