Will AOL keep Massively going?

If you follow online media news, you’ll know that the big story of the week was that AOL bought the Huffington Post for crazy high amounts of dosh, and handed editorial control of all of its blogs/ media content over to Arianna Huffington. One of the family of AOL owned blogs is Joystiq which readers might recognise from the URLs of WoW Insider and Massively.

WoW Insider has pretty much nailed down its readership. I’d guess it as the most popular of all the WoW news blogs – the fact that getting linked from WoW Insider can easily net a small blog up to 5k hits will give you an inkling of how many readers they have in general, since only a small proportion of readers do click on links.

But what about Massively? I like the site (despite them failing to offer me a writing gig), but how long can that survive in the brave new HuffPo world, subject to an editor-in-chief whose main strengths are news and women’s interest issues. Here’s a hint of what is to come:

A recent leak of AOL’s growth strategy for its media division showed a business ruthlessly devoted to generating more traffic through increased frequency of publication, better search-engine optimization, and more recruitment of talented writers and editors. The new way sets ambitious goals for site editors, requiring writers to post 5 to 10 stories a day and generate at least 7,000 hits per story.

Does anyone think that press releases about non-mainstream MMOs are going to generate 7000 hits per story?

I’m not trying to be downbeat here. I’d like to be wrong, or misinformed. I think we’re lucky to have a bankrolled MMO news site that doesn’t cut out the smaller, newer, or less WOW-ish games and I’d like to see it do well. But small and diverse niches don’t sound to me as though they fit too well with the AOL growth strategy.

And if it does crash and burn in it’s current form, that doesn’t mean that its corporate masters are giving up on the market. Maybe if things change they can get better. What would you want to see instead?

The truth about WoW and the ‘B Squad’

Back in July, Eric@Elder Game posted a thought provoking article about how development teams had been organised at Turbine. They had a development team (A Team) and a live team (B Team). He commented that WoW might use a similar structure and based his observations on what he’d seen coming out of their dev team recently.

Joystiq interviewed J Allan Brack (Warcraft’s lead producer) and this was one of the questions that they asked. What he actually said is that they only have one team for WoW. (140 people is a huge development team, incidentally, so presumably they are split into different projects.)

We have one team and it is over 140 people, and it is a World of Warcraft team. We have talked about splitting up into kind of expansion one team or into a live team, a patch team, and then an expansion team. But it is really important to us that we have one vision, one kind of consistent set of everything that we are doing, so it is just one team.

He is also asked to comment on how large Cataclysm will be as an expansion, given that there are 5 extra levels rather than 10. If you aren’t interested in levelling an alt in the next expansion, don’t expect WoW to last you as long as it has previously.

I think this is the … this is the largest expansion we have ever made. So there is a little less level up content for the people who are already at max level and only play one character. But we are going to have more dungeons. We are going to have more in game rating content. There is a huge amount of level up content, it is just not max level up.

And as an added bonus, there’s  a great drawing of a goblin mage girl on page 3 of the interview.