(Editor’s Note: after publishing this post news broke that AoL officially laid off people from Joystiq, WoW Insider, and Massively. I’m sorry to see it wasn’t just a rumor.)
I wasn’t going to write anything about the potential shutdown of Massively (along with sister sites Joystiq and WoW Insider) because nothing has been officially announced and I try to resist writing about unconfirmed rumors. However, this morning I read the extremely grudge-wanky post I Hope Massively Shuts Down over at Keen and Graev and … it inspired me to write a response.
I’m not a big reader of Massively, although I do keep an eye on their Twitter and RSS feeds. I visit the site particularly when I want to get a feeling for how popular or how divisive a game change is. You can learn a lot about the MMO player community just by scanning to see which articles get the most comments.
And I sometimes have issues with Massively’s articles. There have been times when I didn’t think one was particularly well written, or I just felt it was a little too “press release-y”. I have written the occasional post here in the past when I disagreed with an article or I didn’t think the logic held up.
All of that aside, let’s be perfectly clear here: The loss of Massively would be a huge loss for the MMO community.
Keen’s mega-jerky post — because it was, let’s be honest — argues that Massively is bad because it’s “mass media”. Which.. okay, it is. It’s owned by AoL, it’s very popular in the scheme of MMO sites, and it gets attention from publishers based on that. According to Keen, Massively’s popularity turned “hundreds of thousands of people into sheeple”. They write about things people want to read! Those bastards!
Except, the whole mass media pablum argument isn’t the full story. You only had to read the comments on any article about gender equality in MMOs to see Editor-in-Chief Brianna Royce wade into the fray and share potentially unpopular decisions. Massively has also been a HUGE supporter of smaller, indie MMOs. They championed Glitch, a game near and dear to my heart. They’ve written articles about Age of Wushu and A Tale in the Desert and Wurm Online and a ton of other small games that many of us would possibly otherwise have missed completely. And straight up, they’ve linked this blog and Cat Context at least once each, and have a long history of linking other members of the MMO blogging community. Massively is GOOD for amateur blogs.
(Don’t even get me started on Keen’s accusations of fake game journalists. Like, seriously. He accuses them of not even playing MMOs! Are they just pretending to be MMO players because they like the attention?)
Yes, Massively is a business and has to meet certain metrics to be considered successful, including, I assume, page views. And yes, I’m sure at times they’ve written bland stories about hugely popular games almost entirely for the traffic, because that is what professional content sites do to stay alive. Perhaps I am biased as someone who has a job forming words (in marketing! evil marketing!) but I think it’s pretty okay for someone to make a living from writing about games, and it’s also pretty okay for a company to make money from distributing that writing.
All in all Keen’s post reads like sour grapes to me. Perhaps he believes that the demise of Massively will somehow make his blog more precious and special, but the fact is it just reduces the legitimacy of our area of interest. I’m not a huge Massively fan, but it is a recognizable name that can get into E3 and other shows, highlight smaller games, and link back to the community.
MMO consumers are better off in an ecosystem where Massively exists, and to wave your hands and say that good people should lose their livelihood because Massively is (shock) a business that requires a appealing to a large audience to stay alive is short-sighted at best and downright mean at worst.