Duder, It's Over

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gamer_152

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Edited By gamer_152  Moderator
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There's no mistaking that Giant Bomb has meant a lot to a lot of people. Over the past several days, I've heard community members say that the site helped them overcome depression, survive the isolation of the pandemic, and come out as trans. Even plenty of us who weren't carried through some personal struggle by this goofy-ass publication feel deeply attached to the antics here and the people behind them. And crucially, the love comes with support for the staff, not just obsession with them.

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Passion in online fandoms all too often translates into anger, factionalism, and a sense of ownership over creatives. In this community, however, users want the staff not just to produce entertainment for them but to pick the career decisions that will make them happy. That makes me really satisfied with the fandom we've built here. There's been no shortage of words expended on the potentially problematic nature of parasocial relationships recently, and a lot of that criticism is valid. However, I think our community, on the whole, is grounded and caring when it comes to interacting with the figures it admires.

I've also seen a lot of you say that it's hard to explain to friends outside this bubble why Giant Bomb means so much to you. What's emotional about knowing you won't be seeing some people playing video games on the internet together anymore? Part of the answer lies in that they are people, and this is a site in which personality has always come to the forefront. Humans are social animals; we feel attached to others who communicate in a way that gels with us, and videos, streams, podcasts and articles are all communication. Plus, social circles have always formed around activities, whether that be a weekly card game or the whole library of video games.

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There's also been a consistency to Giant Bomb that has made it intimately familiar. For those of us close to the site, it's been there every week, no matter if we're happy or sad, busy or flushed with time, wide awake or half-asleep. Giant Bomb has existed for my entire adult life. Even when I've been in one of my less active periods, the warmth and persistence of the site have always made it feel like a home I can come back to. To hear that I can't come home again is very difficult. On some level, it doesn't even make sense to me because I'm so used to this site as part of my existence. Telling me there's no more Giant Bomb is like telling me there's no more breakfast or no more Wednesdays.

Of course, you might say that Giant Bomb isn't shutting down; it's just losing a few of its personnel. That's kind of correct, but we need to interrogate the label of "Giant Bomb" a bit to understand what we're keeping and what we're losing. This website isn't going anywhere, and it looks like the current community is in it for the long haul. But when we say "Giant Bomb", we often don't mean the domain or the fandom. We mean the collection of podcasts, videos, broadcasts, and writing with that name attached to it, as well as the faces who create and star in that media. There's a part of the creator in everything they make, but on a personality-driven site like Giant Bomb, that's especially true. What's more, the flavour of the site isn't just in the individual contributors that make it up, but also the chemistry between them. So, you change the presenters, and you radically change the end product. That human element that makes Giant Bomb so friendly and relatable is also what makes it so fragile.

Now, there's a bit of a Theseus's Ship thing going on here. Some of the staff who were part of Giant Bomb a week ago are still around, some aren't, and the site has always been a revolving door. On the back of that, you could argue that the original Giant Bomb is still extant or is long gone or that it's ambiguous whether or not Giant Bomb Classic exists now. However, I think that the recent shakeup cuts away at the core of the site to an extent that nothing before has. The original editorial team for Giant Bomb was Jeff, Ryan, Brad, and Vinny. With the exit of the latter two, the only original member of that squad remaining is Jeff Gerstmann. And while he's always taken a proactive role in directing the site, it's going to be Jeff Bakalar, a more recent collaborator with the team who will lead "content strategy and development, as well as partnerships". Jeff (Gerstmann, not Bakalar) has talked candidly about reimagining this place and bringing in people from backgrounds that have never been part of this project before. So, I feel comfortable in saying that while the Giant Bomb name lives on, what it will be applied to is going to be something new.

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You can't rebuild a machine until you've stripped it down to its bare parts, and that's the state Giant Bomb is in at the moment. Everything feels a little delicate because we can see what we've lost and have little idea of what we're going to gain. There's no guarantee that this new plan will be enough to keep Giant Bomb running either. It reminds me of the period right before and then for a few years after the launch of this site. If you weren't with us for takeoff, you're no less a member of the community, but I think it's hard to imagine what it was like at the time.

On today's internet, you cannot move for low-fi and independent coverage of games. Most gaming content now comes in the form of a video or stream. That video or stream usually prioritises fun over criticism and presents the creator as a player just like the viewer. And subscription models are how plenty of online services, including games entertainment services, make their bank. Back in 2008, when Giant Bomb launched, none of that was true.

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There was no Twitch or Patreon at the time. Netflix had only begun their transition from mailing DVDs to online streaming a year earlier and had no original content. YouTube had existed for only three years, and there was no PewDiePie, no TotalBiscuit, and no Ninja. Video game websites were mostly concerned with generalised news and reviews with on-video content affecting a professional, studio-produced look. The most notable platform on which people were having madcap fun with the medium was probably G4 TV which would periodically lean towards an MTV vibe.

So, when a bunch of guys started taking handheld camera of themselves talking about games in a basement in Sausalito, that was pretty punk. And allowing people to decide whether they want to buy a video game using the Quick Look format, making media as much about personality and humour as video game analysis, asking for a monthly fee for bonus content, all that stuff was cutting edge. And while Giant Bomb wasn't the only site to jump on these ideas, their support for these approaches helped popularise them in games coverage. Jeff, Vinny, Ryan, Drew, Dave, and Brad were trailblazers.

I don't think it's remembered vividly now, but at the time, there was a certain scepticism about Giant Bomb. Some people even looked down on it. Here, you had a group of guys who'd had cushy jobs at one of the most respected video game review sites heading out on their own to produce games media with far fewer resources. For some observers, it was the equivalent of an act that once packed out Madison Square Garden being reduced to playing backwater bars. There were no assurances that the results could prove the naysayers wrong either. Ryan himself stated that before starting Giant Bomb, he couldn't be sure it would work. And before that, things were even bleaker. Jeff (again, Gerstmann) has talked about sitting at home after being fired, thinking his career was over. But it wasn't. It incredibly wasn't.

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So, when I see people saying that they believe this website's days are numbered and that the new approach is doomed, I don't share the same conviction because I remember when the gang were meant to be doomed before. That doesn't mean there's any guarantee of success this time, but it makes me willing to give the people behind the new Giant Bomb a long time before I count them out. And a key lesson in this origin story is that risk, like the risk the staff are taking now, is necessary if you want to break new ground.

Giant Bomb's current state is not directly comparable to how it existed around launch. There's no chance of the old Gamespot crew being integrated into the site as there was then. Giant Bomb also wasn't owned by a venture capital company at that time. However, it sticks strongly in my head as an example of how uprooting the old gives you a place to plant something new. There's a lot of empty space here at the site now, but you need space to house something fresh.

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I have to admit, I've been a little nervous ever since Red Ventures took over. There's a long history of venture capital firms gutting the companies they acquire and of big business interests diluting the editorial rigour of online writing, swapping it out for clickbait or broadly popular tabloid fodder. In some cases, executives forcing journalists and critics to chase the zeitgeist has run sites into the ground. Perhaps the most notorious example of this was over at sports and politics hub Deadspin. The site had a dedicated and discerning fanbase that had coalesced around the deep insight and razor-sharp wit of its writers. Then Deadspin was acquired by a private equity firm that created a host of problems for the writers, including forcing them to abandon much of their previous editorial direction. That not only destroyed Deadspin's soul but also sabotaged the mechanisms that made it profitable.

Another great example of capital-driven destruction came in the "pivot to video" trend. Marketing metrics demonstrated that advertisers prefer to purchase ad space in video form rather than in banners. Plus, Facebook data going back to 2015 showed that users preferred to consume content in the video format. And, of course, what Facebook says goes because almost all publications use Facebook as a distributor. In line with these revelations, accomplished writers were laid off so that offices could be staffed with presenters and film editors. But in 2016, The Wall Street Journal worked out that the figures Facebook had published were false, and in 2017, a survey from Reuters revealed that 71% of people prefer to consume news through text rather than video.

So, on various sites, a bunch of talented people building beloved media were laid off for the sake of powerful financial interests. On a subset of those sites, even the captains of industry did not benefit as outlets like Mic took a turn for the worst, and businesspeople who'd invested in the wisdom of Facebook got burned. So, if you're feeling a little protective over Giant Bomb right now, me too. I see a few people saying that they trust the staff to keep the site afloat, and I love the support. Still, we must remember plenty of businesses crewed by obscenely talented people went under for economic reasons beyond their control.

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But again, this is an area in which I feel surprisingly optimistic, at least in the medium-term. Giant Bomb being controlled by a powerfully profit-focused entity is nothing new. ViacomCBS, the former owners, are worth around $27 billion. The site survived that, and the way that the staff have been talking, Red Ventures are an economic entity willing to invest more in Giant Bomb. Maybe that climate changes a few years down the line, but that was always a risk. And Giant Bomb's subscription model could make it more profitable to cater to its committed audience rather than following the whims of the advertising market. It sounds like instead of being jeopardising, this purchase could be a shot in the arm for the site. And a shot in the arm might be what it needs. I've had a blast with Giant Bomb recently, but the most amped up I've been about the site was when they were doing something boldly new.

I also don't want to speculate too much about the future of this place because I don't think it's healthy for anyone involved. A minority of community members have made claims about where Giant Bomb is going next that aren't grounded in anything we know. I understand that this impulse comes from sadness over the death of the old site and from wanting things to make sense at a confusing time. But we also need to take stock of what we have evidence for and what we don't. Positing immediate futures where Giant Bomb crashes and burns without any real proof of them unnecessarily bums out other users, puts more pressure on contributors to the site, and also isn't going to make you any happier.

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But those are thoughts about what's coming. As for what's happened before, I feel so thankful for everyone who has done something positive for this site, staff or community. It's wild that such a small group of people can build something this large and enduring. I think it says something about the character of Giant Bomb that even the engineers and designers are open, informative, and friendly.

As for the people on camera and who've written for the site, I don't think I'd know half of what I do about games today without them, and it's still a mystery to me how they manage to freewheel effortlessly between spontaneous humour and serious breakdowns of games and the industry. There are many online platforms for people loosely shooting the shit about video games; almost none of them have those discussions backed by as much experience and expertise as exists here. To the userbase, if you've shared some kind words here or some of your thoughts on games, posted some fan art or even just fired off a silly joke that made people smile, that means a lot. That's the stuff that makes a community, and I'm proud of having had a tiny role in creating a constructive, abuse-free space for it to grow.

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Giant Bomb has left me with so many wonderful memories, too many to name. There was the rollercoaster ride of the Persona 4 Endurance Run, scraping the bottom of the medium's barrel with Game Room Quick Looks and DSiWare, and jet setting documentaries that looked at gaming across the globe. We saw a man discover live on camera that pirates steal cargo, another play the drums for 24 hours straight, and a third inexplicably become a popular online GIF. As we move ahead into a new era for Giant Bomb, I don't think we'll be forgetting any of these moments, but I hope we get many more just as special. Goodbye old friend.

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cheburashka

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Wonderfully nuanced and detailed for a post titled, "It's Over".

I've drifted in and out of GB, and honestly I'll probably checking in less often, but GB is not about me, or any of us. Maybe the OG users are done, but there's plenty of people that joined a year, two years, three years ago that are into the GB vibe and will continue to be.

On a personal note, the dissolution of Joystiq and Gamesradar hit me hard at the time, but I realized that all good things come to an end, those people move on to bigger and better things, and I am capable of dealing with that. I want to extend the Giant Bomb entity the same respect and trust, that it will evolve into something different, that appeals to people new and old.

PS Fuck Facebook for creating the video content boom.

PPS o7

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Lokar36

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What a good way to summarize the feelings of a long term fan. I've been here since the start and can say this captures my fears and hopes perfectly.

Thanks for putting this out there.

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bb4lake

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I have been around since near the beginning. At least a decade or so. I tend to break it down into about 4 or 5 eras. Pre-CBS, CBS Upstairs, CBS Downstairs, GBeast (spin-off) and of course more recently Pandemic era.

Just like the rule that the golden age of video games is when you first started playing them, GB is similar. CBS bought them just after I really started spending a lot of time here so the upstairs CBS era is what I have the most fondness for. That’s not to say I haven’t loved things from every time period but those UPF’s and all the guests from GameSpot dropping by like Danny and Mary and Peter were always great. GBeast inherited a lot of that energy between Vinny and eventually Dan coming over and so I really loved their output as well.

The downstairs years were a bit more serious but I also attribute that to games media getting more serious. Ethical issues have become more front and center and it’s not just about fun times in video games anymore. Despite that, Ben was a great addition and the E3 stuff during that period was some of the strongest they’ve ever done.

Obviously Covid was terrible full stop but I think it gave everyone time to look at what they had done for over a decade and re evaluate it. I just hit 10 years at my job and between that and the GB retirements I have ask really been considering my future. I don’t blame anyone for deciding now is the time to move on.

Every time someone has left I’ve been sad that I won’t get as much content from them but with rare exceptions (I’m looking at you Ben), I’ve been able to follow them afterwards. Patrick and Austin at Waypoint, Drew on his Formula 1 podcast with Danny, Dan and Abby on Twitch. It really doesn’t feel like they are gone so the wounds healed rather quickly. Ryan has been the only one who I am still heartbroken over obviously.

I’ve kind of lost the plot on my point, lol. All of that is to say that I think the vast majority of fans just appreciate the time we’ve had with everyone on staff. If the site completely shut down but the videos stayed available I would probably still come back frequently to view it as a time capsule. Even if current output was just the Bombcast and Friday streams I would stay a paying member until the day the lights fully go out because of that back catalogue.

I understand why some people are using this as a time to make a clean break but I’m hanging around. I already wasn’t watching every video posted but I am too fascinated to see what the future holds. Long live Giant Bomb: The Next Generation.

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lapsariangiraff

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who has had the Ship of Theseus on my mind lately.

I've been with the site from the very beginning, and I never would have imagined it could go this far. You're right pointing that out -- this thing felt fragile from the start, and I'm not sure that can be communicated to later generations. I've grown up, and the site has grown up so much in the time since then. Writing a user review on this site got me my first gig writing about games. My ex-partner and I watched the P4 Endurance Run together. Much like Jeff and the crew can demarcate the passage of their lives by certain events on the site, I can remember big life events that happened around the time the Doom quick look came out, or during different E3 streams, or during Alex's first drum stream.

I've mentioned this elsewhere, but "dudes online making edgy jokes about video games" has so many potentially toxic spaces online, and I'm so so glad I fell in with Giant Bomb instead. As a lot of streamers and creators fell into alt-right or alt-right adjacent nonsense, the Giant Bomb guys continued to show empathy, shut down abuse, misogyny, or bigotry when it popped up. I said it earlier in this post, but they grew up, and they helped me grow up too.

I learned more about games, I learned just a small bit about how to be a decent human being, and I wouldn't be the person I am today without Giant Bomb.

Great piece. I'm around with y'all for the long haul.

o7

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brandonj98

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#5  Edited By brandonj98

I appreciate the thought but we don't even know what's going to happen right? things change people change and we all move on an evolve. Yes I agree we collectively ended a thing (as audience members) but it doesn't mean the people who we have supported throughout the years will stop making things. all of this is okay and i look forward to the new talent here and else where to show us new points view. We have to move through it with everyone else. This is probably the best thing for everyone. If its the end fine but lets not discount the hard ass working people who are still around. No one has had the chance to walk let alone run.

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berfunkle

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Loading Video...

How I feel.

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htr10

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Today is the 12 year anniversary of Vinny casting bufu.

It’s been a long and crazy ride and in some ways it’s ended and in other ways it continues the same as ever.

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IR0N-PR0L3

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I’ve been bank rolling Jeff’s bad habits for years now. I’m not gonna abandon him now, he has two kids to put through college.

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F1REv2

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Interesting post.

I became a premium member 2 years ago because a friend shared GBs YouTube GOTY 2018 deliberations with me and I loved them. I then proceeded to watch their E3 reactions, podcasts, The Run, playdates, Mass Alex, etc., and I enjoyed about 10+ years worth of content like I imagine the majority of the people here who still frequent this site daily, if not weekly, do. The GB staff has done a terrific job in letting their unique voices be heard, it's why if they spend 30 minutes for 3 weeks in a row talking about Valheim I won't skip those sections because I love just hearing what they have to say. If I truly didn't, the Bombcast and Beastcast would be 20 minutes long while I listen to the email section.

Honestly though I've come to the realization the last 6 months that while I enjoy what everyone has brought to the table, both members who have left and those who are still part of GB, the community discussion aspect of this site is poor. Now that isn't to say I think this community is toxic, as a GameFAQs member for over 20 years I know what a toxic community looks like and GB is far from it. The GB community however reminds me of the friend that asks "do I look good in this shirt?" and instead of saying "you need to go the next size up" the majority would rather say "I love the design!". As a premium member who has put their $ towards GB I don't think there is anything wrong in discussing the future, wondering if 3 out of 4 core members left because they don't like the next stage of GB, and questioning what that next stage is. And yet, those topics get deleted or locked once a mod steps in because it all falls under the "dont badmouth Red Ventures." Which honestly outside of a few twitter posts the majority of community members aren't (from what I've read) and instead are just curious and curiosity shouldn't be squashed.

Again, I enjoy this site. I'm in it for the long haul. Everyone including myself on live chats has said "Jeff is still a threat" and that is because I believe he has a certain way he wants his voice to be heard and he wants to give a platform for gamers to do the same thing. Personally I think what Jan did today on stream with music is a small glimpse on why the Giant Bomb platform works and hopefully we get more of that content, honestly I hope we just get more Jan in the future as he injects young blood into this site which I think is needed.

I would be REALLY disappointed if 3-4 months from now we were just getting quick looks, podcasts, and UPF. It would say to me that there wasnt any major desire to change the formula. I really want this next stage of Giant Bomb to feel refreshing and hopefully we get not just new content but different content outside of what already exists on 20 other patreons and youtube subscriptions.

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Y2Ken

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It sounds like instead of being jeopardising, this purchase could be a shot in the arm for the site. And a shot in the arm might be what it needs.I've had a blast with Giant Bomb recently, but the most amped up I've been about the site was when they were doing something boldly new.

I really like this line. I'm fascinated to see what comes next.

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Broshmosh

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I like your writing, gamer_152. This post was good.

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Hizang

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A fantastic post.

I am feeling quite optimistic, I've been following the site since it's origin and it's helped me a great deal over the years.

People have come and go, but it always keeps going, aslong as lots of us are still happy to sit and watch them play games I'm sure they will be able to keep going.

The forum and wiki side are not as strong as they once was, but that's just the way the Internet has gone. Mabye they have some changes to the actual website itself, mabye bring back the quest system or something.

In any case I will follow the site until its end, all the way!

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Arjailer

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Pretty sure this has been pointed out in other threads, but despite the connotations of their name Red Ventures are not actually a venture capital company. They're a media and marketing company.

There's a lot of fears expressed there based on a false impression of what the company actually does.

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bigsocrates

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@arjailer: If you look at who has invested in Red Ventures it's private equity firms. While Red Ventures doesn't have a history of the kinds of gutting and spinning off activities that a lot of private equity firms are involved in, its M.O. is another play from the PE playbook, which is essentially buying brands and then reformulating those brands in order to extract value by fitting them into a particular model. Red Ventures companies tend to run a lot of sponsored content and other content that's designed to drive traffic to their advertising partners (as opposed to just selling advertising on the site.) They have a history of changing sites they buy to fit this model.

Now will they do that with Giant Bomb? What will it look like? We don't know. It's possible they won't, and instead they'll just do something like run a bunch of credit card ads from their partners on the Bombcast, in which case, well, the Bombcast has had advertising for a long time so that changes nothing. It's also possible that Giant Bomb will start doing sponsored streams (clearly labeled as such) for certain games or gaming related products. The site has done 'reskin' deals before with advertisers so I'm not sure that sponsored streams would be a particularly big deal, and obviously Jeff has a history of taking editorial independence quite seriously.

I think what people are afraid of is that they will dilute the brand by getting rid of the older more expensive talent, bringing in younger cheaper people, and focusing a lot more on partner-driven content and leveraging the site's brand legacy for advertising. I think that's a legitimate fear given what they've done with prior sites, but I don't think they'd leave Jeff in charge if that's what they intended to do, because that's just not who he has ever been. I also don't think Jan, Jason, or Rorie would likely want to be a part of that. So I think that as long as there's some continuity in the editorial team we can have faith that whatever's coming next it won't be some playbook private equity hollowing out of the company to replace it with essentially a landing page for ads. Jeff wouldn't still be here if that's what they were planning.

But seeing three of the OG editorial team leave at once without a lot of explanation has obviously made people afraid of that, and I think that's what they're expressing when they talk about "venture capital" by which they actually mean private equity, because venture capital is mostly about funding start ups and companies with growth potential, not buying and hollowing out mature companies.

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Pacinamac

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It's been time for a change for more than 5 years. Everyone knows that. Hopefully this shakeup brings something new and exciting. Because, just like with video games, if you keep making the same sequel ever single year, people will stop playing. (unless your call of duty)

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colourful_hippie

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Wonderful write-up! I sincerely hope that Jeff manages to stick the landing with this next transition into a new era. I just have my doubts that whatever form the new iteration will take won’t exactly be for me anymore.

I hope I’m wrong.

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DaemonoftheWood

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@gamer_152: Absolutely nailed it. I'm going to sincerely miss Brad, Vinny, and Alex each week, perhaps feeling more negative about the change than I have any right to. That said, my ultimate hope is for Giant Bomb to continue being an excellent place for gaming discussions, knowledge, and personalities that don't feel forced like wacky radio morning show hosts.

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TheHT

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Great write-up, dude. I just wish everyone well, whatever happens to this, that, or the other.