I have sad news for the Massively staff and community today, news most of you already knew was coming.
This week, we learned our AOL overlords have decided that they no longer wish to be in the enthusiast blog business and are shutting all of them down. This mass-sunset includes decade-old gaming journalism icon Joystiq, and therefore, it includes us. February 3rd, 2015, will be the final day of operation for Massively-that-was.
I would like to be able to tell you truthfully that this is an equitable and just decision that makes some sort of logical sense, but the reality is that our overlords’ decisions have always been unfathomable. I know more of what I know about corporate from reading tech and finance news than through my own job. We all suspected this was coming eventually a year ago when a VP whose name I don’t even know and who never read our site chose to reward our staggering, hard-won 40% year-over-year page view growth by… hacking our budget in half. There’s nothing to do in the face of that kind of logic but throw your hands in the air. It’s not about merit or lack thereof, and it’s not about journalism or gaming being dead or anything grand like that, so there’s no point in taking it personally.
But for me, it’s hard not to. This was a lot more than a job for me. I’ve worked as a lead editor at Massively for just shy of five years, half of that as its boss, and it seeped into my life and became more than a full-time job, even though none of us ever received any benefits. You know that two-week “maternity leave” I took last year when my daughter was born? That was my vacation for the whole year. And I wasn’t alone in that foolishness/dedication; the Massively writers, past and present, bent over backward for the site. I flat out love these guys. I came in here as a geeky copyeditor and am leaving with a fleet of good friends and a much deeper understanding of how and why my favorite genre runs the way it does, and it will forever influence how I play games and whose games I buy.
Massively’s writers are second to none in the MMO genre; I’ll so dearly miss the day-to-day, down-in-the-trenches collaboration with my team. People actually cared about this place. In a year when other sites were finally discovering ethics, we wondered what took them so long because our network already had a transparent ethics policy. We already didn’t play dirty pool. You might not have agreed with all of our opinions — I didn’t always agree with our opinions! — but our hands were clean, and you can’t say that about a lot of sites in this industry. Some sites out there actually employ industry PR as fan writers, out in the open, like it’s no big thing.
That’s your industry now.
We tried to rise above it.
Our whole network did.
Thank you, PA.
Massively’s community deserves its kudos too. We had some trolls and some people who made me tear my hair out, but we also had a core of whip-smart regulars who sparked lively, thoughtful debate and inspired us to write more and better. I love our community, and I proved it by hiring several writers straight out of the comment section. I’m really going to miss being challenged to think harder and type faster by you. Where do I go to learn now? Even if I were still just a player, even if I had never worked here, I would be deeply troubled by the vanishing of a site like Massively. It’s just not fair, but it’s happening anyway.
I would like to thank each and every one of you who sent your condolences and best wishes and #savemassively tweets to us and kept #savejoystiq trending all Tuesday as the rumors began to leak out. There’s even a petition, for skies’ sake. I am sorry we couldn’t overtly confirm it then, but I’m pretty sure most of you reading have been around long enough to understand why. We’ve spent a lot of this week linking those comments to each other to keep our spirits up. Heck, some of our harshest critics and even devs we’ve written about unflatteringly nevertheless rallied around us, and we’re grateful and touched. Really, thank you. You’re genuinely classy in an industry that too frequently isn’t. But then I always knew that MMO players were a special breed of gamer. It’s why I’ve stuck by this genre for over 17 years. Community may be degrading inside of MMOs, but outside of them, nope — I see community every day.
I want to thank my team for standing by me through this brutal and exhausting last year in particular. Jef, who never put up with bullshit and always put the site first. Justin, who never complained and always did so much more than he had to. Eliot, with whom I spent so many mornings arguing just to argue. MJ, whose enthusiasm reminds me games are supposed to be fun. Toli, whose articles make me wish I could write half as well as he. Brendan, whose longevity is surpassed only by his talent and expertise in so many subjects. Larry, who wore any hat I asked him to and always found the inside scoops. And Mike, a consummate professional who for some reason willingly came back to write for me even after I had to lay him off once already. That is how much people love this place.
I would also like to thank my boss at Joystiq, Ludwig Kietzmann. He demonstrated tremendous faith in me to run Massively as a unique outlet in the industry. He insulated us from so much corporate ick, creating a writing-first environment that few internet editors ever experience. He kept us online last year when he could have cut us loose. And he treated the MMO genre with respect, which is nearly unheard of on mainstream gaming sites. /salute, Luddy
Many of you have asked us what’s next. As we’ve been alluding, we are considering striking out as a team on a site that isn’t beholden to indifferent corporate overlords. Those of you who are begging us to crowdfund might get a chance to put your money where your mouths are and help shape that idea. We’ll be releasing more information over the next few weeks as we formulate our plans and will be using our social media feeds to communicate when we’re ready. If we go forward, we hope you’ll join us.
In the meantime, I invite you to follow our writers and share your own Twitter handles in the comments so we can follow you right back. (I mean it: There are some posters here I really don’t want to lose track of.)
Bree Royce (@nbrianna, blog)
Jef Reahard (@jefreahard)
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog)
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog)
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog)
Mike Foster (@MikedotFoster, blog)
Anatoli Ingram (@ceruleangrey)
Brendan Drain (@nyphur)
Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog)
The site, I’m told, will be archived and kept online, at least for a while. We’re here until the lights go out on Tuesday. When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl… well, you know how it goes.
WoW Insider began operations on November 23, 2005. On Tuesday, February 3, 2015, WoW Insider operations will cease. I’m finding it difficult to say much more than that; eloquence fails at a time like this. We certainly weren’t expecting it.
Barb Dybwad personally launched the site that evolved into the one we know and love. Elizabeth Harper later took the helm as Editor-in-Chief, ushering the site from infancy to adolescence, and from there the helm passed from Liz, to Dan O’Halloran, then eventually to me in October of 2011. It’s a tough job steering this ship. The winds are fierce and the waters choppy. It’s a bit dramatic to say something like heavy lies the crown, but I suppose I need to take the opportunity while I have it. Though, I don’t think sea captains wear crowns.
What a terrible metaphor.
I meant to segue all of that into a discussion of our merry crew, our beautiful band of staffers, the WoW Insider personalities we’ve all come to love in the years, but I suppose you already know them. How couldn’t you? Just imagine Matthew Rossi singing a sea shanty. We wrote by shanty, you know. Audio conference call on the high seas all day, every day. Honest truth. Cross my heart.
In our final hours, however, I want this to be about us. Not just us, the staff. You, too. Our readers. We did what we did, and what we do, for all of you and with all of you. We’ve always done our very best to embrace the World of Warcraft community. We worked to ensure all were welcome. It didn’t matter who you were or how you played, how casual or hardcore, we wanted you to know you had a place. It wasn’t about being first to the news — it was about ensuring everyone had the context and information necessary to understand it. Through features like The Queue, and through you, we tried to pinpoint exactly what the players needed and how to deliver it. It was about giving praise where it was due — and criticism, too. We pushed to make the game better, and a better place, whenever we could and wherever we could. We couldn’t have done any of it with you.
In the end, we were friends. I can think of no other way to put it. Staff, audience, community. We were friends.
This is the end of WoW Insider, but it isn’t the end of us. Friendship lives on. What comes next for our intrepid crew? You’ll find out soon, but not here. Follow us on Twitter and keep that date, February 3, close in mind. You don’t know what our Twitter handles are, you say? Let me help:
Give me a shanty, lads and ladies. Onward until dawn!