31/01/2015

A Few Words About Joystiq, Massively and WoW Insider

I don't remember when I first discovered WoW Insider, but I'm pretty sure that it must have been before the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, because I vaguely recall the whole scandal about WotLK beta information being leaked and WoW Insider taking a stand by not posting it (or something like that). I do know that once I found it, WoW Insider soon became one of my favourite sites to visit. It updated frequently and offered just the right mix of news, opinions and general community shenanigans (fan videos, reports about unusual play styles, community drama etc.). Once I started my own WoW blog, I also got linked by WI once or twice, which always resulted in a massive traffic spike.

I only stopped visiting the site regularly when I stopped playing WoW, but even then I checked back every so often to see what was happening in ye olde World of Warcraft and whether anyone had made any funny machinimas recently. Once I even submitted a letter to one of their advice columns (back when they had those) that was actually about my SWTOR guild, which I didn't mention in the letter of course... and it got printed and answered. Let's be honest, most of the subjects discussed in those columns were relevant to more than one MMO, so it didn't matter that it wasn't actually about WoW.

When I started playing SWTOR, as much as I enjoyed the game, I was initially quite frustrated by what I perceived as a lack of community support online. I think a lot of people experience something similar when they move from WoW to another game - after all, no other MMO has had quite as many millions of players pour time and resources into creating content about it and putting it online. I really wanted a "SWTOR Insider", with the same ease of access and frequency of updates. I believe that TORWars actually tried to fill that niche, but it never seemed to take off in quite the same way. The fact that the site was privately owned and therefore had limited resources to work with probably didn't help. It shut down about a year ago.

I tried to get a similar community fix from Massively, but it wasn't quite the same. They wrote about a lot of different games, and SWTOR never felt like one of their favourites. While each writer had their own personal preferences, you could definitely tell that some games came across as being... more loved than others. Any SWTOR article not written by Larry always came across as a bit disinterested or even condescending. I remember a post about Galactic Strongholds where Justin jokingly called it "Star Wars: The Old Republic: Galactic Strongholds: Return of the Colon" - a harmless joke for sure, but also not one I could see them making about most other games while posting info about a new expansion. Of course, the worst thing was that some commenters actually believed that "Return of the Colon" was part of the actual expansion name.

The commenters on Massively were a tribe of their own for sure. You couldn't look at the comments on an article about any game without finding people wade in just to randomly declare that they played this game for a week at launch and that it sucks. Not everyone was like this, mind you... but it was prevalent enough to be annoying and to deter me from commenting myself most of the time. People were never interested in actual in-depth discussions of any particular game, just in vague armchair game design about how this or that feature (free to play, subscriptions, raids, quests) was terrible and needed to disappear from MMOs forever.

And yet... I found myself coming back to the site over and over again. Many posts were entertaining even if I disagreed with them. The news updates taught me about all kinds of MMOs I never knew existed and informed me about the current direction of games I knew about but didn't actually play myself. This is extremely valuable! When I first stepped out of WoW to try SWTOR, it was an eye opener to realise that there were indeed other games out there that could be as much if not more fun than what I'd played before. Even though I continue to defy the trend and remain (for the most part) an MMO monogamist, I like to do so with my eyes open, knowing full well what else is out there and that there are probably at least individual features that are handled better in other games. And when/if I actually have some extra free time, I'm happy to give one of them a spin just for fun.


When I read the news that Massively and WoW Insider were going to shut down, it felt like a punch to the gut. Even though I didn't visit WoW Insider regularly (seeing how I don't play WoW anymore) and Massively often annoyed me, they were valuable community hubs. I don't know where else I'll go for my random news about what else is going on in the world of MMOs now. Sure, there are other, similar sites, but every time I visit one of them I find their layouts clunky and annoying, not to mention that they don't update nearly as often. I can only wish the teams that have been writing for those sites the best of luck, and if you do end up striking out on your own, I'll be happy to chip in. You don't even need to write about SWTOR. Just keep providing us with a bit of entertainment for a rainy day and remind us that there are other MMOs out there that are worth checking out.

EDIT: They have a Kickstarter up now!

5 comments :

  1. All these goodbye-to-Massively posts... I'm starting to feel all emo now.

    You voiced pretty much what Massively was to me: something I did not even read all that often because they rarely wrote about SWTOR (or LotRO for that matter). I also recognize the "I played this game for a week and it sucks" sentiment that indeed did contaminate the website for me, even though they were just comments. Maybe all of this is also because I arrived much later in the blogging scene than you. But at the same time it was a website I did check from time to time. It kinda feels like a big brother is gone.

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    1. Honestly, I was surprised by how much it hit me. But I did visit the site quite regularly. I forsee a lot of "hitting that bookmark out of habit and then being sad" moments in the near future...

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  2. I will miss wow insider more than massively as I feel like WI had a better signal to noise ratio, as it was bound to have, being based around one game/company. I do wish the best for certain massively contributers (good luck Larry!) and I would say the same about WI but it seems like most of the best parts of WI died a few years ago. No more class columns, no more rookie articles, all these things that basically make me wish I had started playing wow during bc or wotlk instead of the tail end of cata. Still, I received a lot of nerd enjoyment reading both sites and here's hoping AOL lets the servers stay up for some time to come...(cross fingers).

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    1. Agreed about WI vs. Massively. It really helped to have people (mostly) on the same page. Among the Massively commenters, many liked only a couple of the games that were being talked about and loudly trashed everything else, which often made for an overwhelmingly negative atmosphere.

      My favourite thing about WI were the columns like Drama Mamas and Officers' Quarters. I kept coming back to read those long after I had quit WoW, and when they were cut... yeah.

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  3. Some of the content from Joystiq will be picked up by Engadget; they just rolled out their "Joystiq X Engadget' sub-site at http://www.engadget.com/gaming/ -- Ben Gilbert talks about the move in http://www.engadget.com/2015/02/03/joystiq-x-engadget/ . Whether the move will expand to cover content from Massively and the other specialized verticals I don't know.

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