Consolidation of the big fansites

Today brought the news that Curse Inc has added mmo-champion to their portfolio of popular gaming sites.

Curse, if anyone recalls, started off as an addon repository produced by a top WoW guild which then went commercial and has been picking up popular fansites and forums for a variety of games. For example, they own Warhammer Alliance and Aion Source. Now that LOTRO has announced that they will allow LUA scripting, we will probably see Curse expanding into LOTRO addons as well in the near future.

I have no issues with Curse, they provide a good gamer-centric service to players and to addon writers. I hope they turn a decent profit.

The other big player in the fansite-conglomeration world is ZAM (previously Allakhazam if you were around in those days). ZAM owns wowhead, wowinterface and tankspot as well as EQ2 Interface and mmoui, and they have a big Free Realms site. Their site also indicates interest in Final Fantasy Xi and XIV.

ZAM had a spotty reputation due to its association with IGE, known mostly for goldselling and buying thottbot (ZAM and IGE were both owned by the same asset holding company). That’s all in the past now and has been for several years, but gamers have long memories.

From the lists of sites, it’s clear that both ZAM and Curse are looking at similar markets. They’re looking to the addons, to the user communities, and to the popular databases. I assume that advertisers provide a lot of the funding – a site like mmo-champion or wowhead gets thousands of hits per day.

Amateur -> Professional

I always feel a sense of loss when an amateur run fansite sells up and goes pro. Sure, it’s great for the people who put all the work into it, and it’s probably even better for users if the new owners help create a better service.

It’s even a half decent business plan to start a site from the very beginning with the aim to monetize, look around for buyers, and grow a business. There’s nothing wrong with that. It also happens in every single hobby based endeavour – providing communities and services to fans is already big business.

And yet, something changes as the commercialisation takes hold. It isn’t necessarily bad, but it is different. It’s great to have access to software like the Curse client which takes so much of the work out of updating addons, and knowing that some of the money goes toward paying the addon authors. It’s great to have access to sites like wowhead.

But it’s also great to have the huge range of amateur writers and sites as well. I don’t hate that my hobby gets more and more commercialised, but I do value even more the people who hold out and speak with different, non-commercialised voices.

Long live our corporate masters! And vive la difference!