@fruitcocoa: Congrats on your new gig. By far my favorite part of the job was screening calls during happy hour :)
snide's forum posts
Thanks guys. I'll obviously be a little MIA for a bit, but I appreciate the support. Just lucky the little tyke showed up after we got comic vine out the door. :)
@snide: It's baffling to me that you guys aren't getting huge economies of scale as the years pass. There's exponentially more gamers each year (population increases/tech availability/internet availability), and I wouldn't imagine the costs of the tech are increasing beyond inflation (correct me if I'm wrong), so why aren't gaming websites snowballing their viewership over time?
The last year or two the gaming industry has actually been in decline. That's mostly due to the console market hitting the end of a cycle. The tech is always expensive, especially for a site of this kind. There's a very good reason why you don't see a wiki engine like ours that spits out a nice clean API. The hope though is that GB should be able to be maintained with a much smaller tech team going forward. Most of the team will switch to rebuilding Gamespot.
The viewership itself is moving to smaller, more focused sites that specialize around specific games. I'm sure everyone on this site plays one or two games quite a bit and frequent sites around just those games right now. They may not be as pretty as Giant Bomb, but they get you the info you need for that game better than the mega-sites can.
The cost of hiring new people to the team is pretty significant. Giant Bomb costs more than you'd think. In general, the lazy math at any company in the bay area goes like this... 1 person = $100k. That's not what someone gets paid, it's just what they end up costing annually. Benefits, equipment, travel, space, possible severance...etc all come into play. I know that sounds high for wherever you live, but the Bay Area is ridiculous in terms of cost.
Now you might say, hey let's just do a subscription drive and let the users "raise" the $100k for the addition, but for any company doing a break even deal that doesn't lead to eventual growth is actually a loss, and in the scheme of things isn't worth the trouble of the overhead (what if for some reason that person needed to be fired later because that extra money couldn't be realized next year, is the company going to risk the rest of the business if it goes sour?). You and I can sit and think up reasons why it would be a good move, but from a financial business sense for a small site, it's just not very exciting to pay for some more reviews / commentary that doesn't necessarily bring in more money. It's just the hard reality of running a profitable business.
End of day we'd all love to work with Rorie again. He's personally one of my best friends and is usually is the hardest working man in front of a text editor. His last year is more a commentary on the state of the entertainment press than anything else. It's also why Jeff and team always answer "You need to know someone" when people ask how to break into the gaming press industry. There are really only 200 or so gaming press jobs in the US out there that will actually pay a real full-time salary. In reality, most editors drop out of the press side of the industry in their 30s once they start having real costs and want to start a family or buy a house. There's no place to move up the ladder above being a video game reviewer. It's why guys like Jeff are extremely rare. At a certain point you realize it's not just pure passion that drives them, but some weird form of long-form, persistent passion that drives their actual being. Us engineers / designers have it much easier. For the most part the pay is much better, the skills you learn are transferable directly to other, potentially more profitable jobs and gaming sites tend to be amazing feeding grounds for hard problems that once solved are valuable to employers in other places. People walked away from Gamespot and built Github. No, really.
This is exactly why I push the subscription model and why I have no problem being a pitch-man for it and telling people to contribute. It very directly puts the destiny of the site into the control of the editors, who aren't aren't convincing advertisers why the site is rad, but are selling a particular style of promised content to their actual audience. Unfortunately, the Internet has a very bad reaction to paying for content. They'd much rather watch the sites they love die off and get replaced. Who cares if 1UP died, when we've now got Polygon...etc. And good luck to Polygon who is spending a huge amount of money (they're about us page lists 41 people, 24 on the development side alone, and likely have a small video team as well. We're talking many millions of dollars for a site that right now is half the size of Giant Bomb. Good for them though, they're growing and I think they're doing a great job.). In the end they will either get to a critical volume near the size of IGN / Gamespot where they can sell enough ads to recoup that cost or they will bust massively in the same style of every magazine or gaming site you can think of in the last decade. Giant Bomb is a spartan enterprise of efficiency compared to most of the industry. It's a nice safe, spot to exist in.
Anyways, most of this has nothing to do with the question at hand, it's just a weird problem I'd like to solve sometime in my life and this got me rambling on about it. How can medium sized, content-driven boutique websites make enough money to be a worthwhile enterprise (meaning significant, long-term profit) comparable to more block-and-tackle large websites that focus on volume (which is easy to sell and explain to ad buyers)? Penny Arcade really is the only success story I can think of. They have an events business that masks itself as a website. But what if you just want to focus on building a great website? And to be clear, this isn't just our problem, it's the entire media industry's problem. Why make good content, when you can make cheap content that ends up being viewed more (click traps, reality television...etc) and is then assumed to be more popular / better by people without a deep understanding of the vertical?
This incidentally is why I'm continually the person that sells his websites and fails to monetize them while I build them (it's why GB is actually doing great here). I have a romantic view of things and very much want the Internet to recognize quality over quantity and see that overall community health is the best metric to judge a website's audience, not raw page-views. I'd like to build the Internet's version of HBO, which is funny considering how often they cancel shows due to cost!
So yeah, hiring Rorie (or anybody) is tough. We continually think about how to do it every day and the whole problem in general is a puzzle I'd like to solve. It's certainly not for lack of want.