Tuesday, February 3, 2015


As the years went by, we drifted apart
When I heard that you were gone
I felt a shadow cross my heart
--from Nobody's Hero by Rush

Today, I had the duty of moving the links to Massively, WoW Insider, and the WoW Insider podcast to the Blogs in Mothballs section.

I wanted to make sure I grabbed this for posterity's sake. I still
regret not having done this for Righteous Orbs or The Pink Pigtail Inn.

The owner of Joystiq, AOL, has decided to get out of that end of content creation and is shutting down the domain. Collateral damage to that decision is that Massively and WoW Insider are forced to shut down as well.

According to Syp over at Bio Break (and Massively), Massively and WoW Insider were making money, but AOL decided not to be in the enthusiast gaming blog business.  By extension, it's likely that AOL would have been fine with that aspect of the business if they were making even more money.

This isn't exactly the first time a major corporation has decided to shut down and/or sell a division because it wasn't making "enough" money.* IBM got rid of their PC division to Lenovo. P&G sold Folgers and Jif. 3M sold off their boardgames division --which included Acquire and Facts in Five-- to Avalon Hill. The disappointing thing about all of this is that it smacks of a decision borne entirely from the finance department. I'm of the opinion that a little goodwill goes a long way, and the money saved by jettisoning Joystiq probably isn't enough to make more than a minor blip on the balance sheet.

Or this.

What Joystiq's shutdown is not, however, is a comment on video gaming in general. I'm 100% confident in saying this had nothing to do with Gamergate, the "MMOs are passe" trend, or anything resulting from a boycott (real or threatened). Last I checked, video games still command more dollars than movies or other forms of entertainment media, so if enthusiast sites like Joystiq are shut down, it isn't for a lack of broad popularity.

Because AOL shut down Joystiq with such a short lead-in time (and according to Syp there was originally supposed to be NO lead-in time, just termination notices), there was almost no time to get a successor site up and running. It is also likely that AOL will retain the rights to the names "Massively" and "WoW Insider", so any replacement site that the writers might want set up will have to come with a different name.**


It sucks to be in this situation, to be terminated so suddenly. I can really empathize with the writers since I've been in their situation, having been fired from a sales job back in the early 90s right after my college years. There's always the self recriminations that you hear when you're lying awake at night, wondering if you'd have done something differently this wouldn't have come to pass. Even when you tell yourself you did nothing wrong, and that is often quite likely the case, you can't keep that inner critic quiet. It nags at you, picking at the scab of your humiliation, and it won't. leave. you. alone. EVER.

At the same time, I make no bones about the fact that I stopped reading WoW Insider long before I gave up WoW itself. The first nail in the coffin was the shutting down of The Daily Quest, which I used to find interesting new blogs to read. When Chas and Tam from Righteous Orbs and Larisa from The Pink Pigtail Inn shut down their blogs there became precious few clearing houses for new WoW blogs, and TDQ filled that void for a while until it simply stopped being written.***

Next, there was the shutting down of the class bloggers. While I wasn't so hardcore about the game and the raiding emphasis that a lot of the bloggers took, I appreciated their expertise. And I would be lying if I didn't say I was thrilled to see Vidyala --someone I actually KNEW both in and out of game-- as the mage blogger. I'd read her blogs from the beginning --courtesy of Tam from Righteous Orbs-- and I was insanely proud of her to get the mage gig. But cutbacks being what they were, her time at WoW Insider was far too shortlived.

Finally, there was my decline in interest in the game throughout 2014, culminating in allowing my subscription to lapse. I'd poke around the site once in a great while, but the "all WoW all the time" nature of W:I really didn't hold the interest of someone who had moved away from the game.


I wasn't about to forget Massively either.
In the end, I suppose that this sort of change will lead to something new. No, I'm not sure what, but I can't imagine that the creativity that Massively and W:I had will simply vanish into the ether. The writers still play games, and they have that burning need to share things with others.

So it's not "goodbye." Not really, anyway. It's more "until we meet again".

*If Joystiq were making more money, AOL would have likely sold it to some potential buyer instead of simply shutting it down. My guess is that AOL felt that the process of selling was a money loser for them, so killing it was more cost effective. [You can insert whatever your thoughts are about corporate bean counters here.]

**AOL might even retain the rights to some of the column names, too. I've not seen the ownership agreements, so YMMV.

***I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that PC had been highlighted a few times on TDQ. Each time it happened I found out about it due to the sudden spike in readership, from the traditional 50-100 people reading the blog to a few thousand. I've discovered that when THAT happens, you suddenly don't need coffee that morning.

EtA: relapse:lapse.  tomato:tomahto.  Sheesh.


  1. I'll be honest; I stopped going to WoW Insider when they moved to joystiq. I don't remember my reasoning, but I haven't had it bookmarked in however many years that's been. I still follow(ed) them on Twitter, and when I saw something interesting, I'd click the link. But I hardly ever get on Twitter. I happened to be on last night and saw that they were shutting down, and I was shocked. I didn't have time to look into it, so I'm glad you wrote this blog post. It really sucks that AOL went about this the way they did, and I'm sad for all of the writers.

    1. Thanks.

      It reminds me of when a restaurant suddenly shuts down, and the only way that the staff finds out is when they show up for work to discover the doors closed. And if AOL had their way, that's exactly what would have happened, but at least word leaked out ahead of the shutdown.

  2. My daughter used to work for AOL and was caught up in one of their many great purges. I'll have to ask her if she had any notice as I can't remember anything except she went to the beach and I was so impressed she wasn't I worrier like her mom.

    I'm hoping Blizzard Watch gets off the ground and going, hopefully so as they haven't officially announced yet and have quite a few backers.

    1. I have an old buddy from college who worked for AOL for several years. The stories he told me aren't safe to post, not because it would turn this into an "adult" blog, but because AOL might try to sue him (or me). They can be a litigious beast at times...

  3. I don't comment often, but I read here pretty regularly (I'm late now because of some crazy travel through January - got behind in a lot of places.). I hope by now you'll have heard about the http://blizzardwatch.com/ resurrection by the WI staff? It's early yet, but off to a nice start. Just wanting to spread the word a bit...

    1. Hmm, I thought I'd responded to your comment, but I guess if vanished into the ether.


      Thanks for the comment!

      And yes, I'd been working on a post (now just posted) for a little while about all the changes the past week. Massively OP and Blizzard Watch have moved at a very fast pace (for the MMO world, anyway) that I decided to wait until today to finally post when I felt that the pace of change had finally started to slow down.