It’s been all over the gaming online community the past few days, but in case you missed it, Re/code (among others) is reporting that Joystiq is shutting down. This will include WoW Insider and Massively, as well. (Due to AOL corporate, they haven’t officially confirmed it, but based on several unofficial sources, it’s 99% sure at this point.)
This hits me hard. While I’ve been pretty itinerant in my writing, doing it more as a pastime, several good friends wrote as a full-time job. Living just got significantly harder for them, and I hope that they find other opportunities.
Why the closure, though? As a former WI writer, I’d say the closure is rooted in two main causes.
- An overly generous payment model. WI/JS generally paid writers by the standards of a print publication; i.e. flat rate per article written, with a focus on editing to ensure quality material was written. This made for better articles (WI had consistently some of the best WoW writing for years) but the payoff just wasn’t there in terms of views. When your site is 100% supported by advertising, it’s much more efficient to tie payment to views, as *cough* certain other sites do. Sucks for the writers, bad for the readers, but advertisers pay based on numbers, not comments praising the quality of the writing.
- AOL Corporate is desperate to cut costs. AOL should have broken itself up long ago. They had a ton of money from winning the early Internet race, and used it to get big without really planning out how they would continue to fund things. Online writing (as mentioned above) is inherently a low-margin activity because the barrier to entry is so low, and adding AOL overhead to it makes it even more difficult.
Unfortunately, it’s tough for me to advocate for WI to continue. Looking specifically at the WoW space, WI engagement has fallen off dramatically. You can get most anything at Wowhead; MMO-Champion/Curse does your breaking news and addons; Icy-Veins does obsessively detailed strategies. What does WI do? It’s great for new players and those who like reading about a variety of different things, but it’s hard to do that better. Some monthly pageview stats I pulled to back this up (note that these are US only from compete.com, but should be fairly representative; numbers include pre-WoD and post-WoD)
- Wowhead: 600k-1m
- MMO-Champion: 300k-600k
- Icy Veins: 200k-500k
- WoW Insider: 100-350k
I see rumors that a Patreon-funded version of the various sites is being discussed, and I’m hopeful that we’re at a point on the Internet where we can do that and make it a success.
What about me?
Seeing as I haven’t written anything on the blog since WoD launched, I should probably add something here. Nothing bad has happened: I was too busy playing WoD for a month to write anything (woohoo!), then was doing family things over the holiday, and lately I’ve just been feeling the same lack of motivation and niche that has affected WI.. I don’t mythic raid, so I have very little to say about ferals that would be meaningful in a competitive context. (Stenhaldi write this analysis on the forums, which sums up basically everything I would say, but much better.) With the gear simplifications, Ask Mr. Robot does a much better job of helping people optimize there then my old gear-list analyses would. Additionally, my full-time job is picking up substantially, to the point where I have much less time to engage with a community like I used to.
Long story short: I need to break the feeling that I have to write “the best thing or nothing at all,” and just write stuff because I enjoy it. I’m getting there..maybe? Don’t know. Not sure. :) Hit the forums for more pertinent feral discussion, ping me on Twitter if you want to talk about whatever, and now close your feed reader/browser and go back to work!