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!

11 thoughts on “Consolidation of the big fansites

  1. As far as I can see from the statement at MMO-Champion, the site was bought from another company. I don’t know the history myself, but from what it looks, the step from amateur to professional was taken a lot earlier, not now.

    It is noticable though that the major sites seem to cluster together to a couple of huge owners. I suppose it’s a natural course – it can’t be that easy to make a decent income in this field I suspect.

    Anyway: as you I don’t condemn the commercialism. After all it grants smooth, reliable services that are there for the long run and not depending on the interest and engagement from one single person.

    On the other hand I appreciate the pure amateur sites a lot. Ad-free blogs such as yours, run out of pure enthusiasm and nothing else. It’s those sites that adds depth, energy and freshness to the community.

  2. Like Larisa points out mmo-champ was owned by MLG (major league gaming), so that site went pro years ago.

    Whenever I hear curse, I think of wowmatrix. Does anyone remember wowmatrix? the addon updater that worked.
    Those where some blessed months when that ran. Then Curse got a whiff of it, and effectively killed wowmatrix -since its goal was not to make money.
    Then they introduced the *horrid* curse-updater, that still to this day, sucks horribly and tries to do all sorts of stuff to your computer. Not to mention the key-logging allegations that many curse-addons had.

    It’s weird that you only seem to remember the bad things that ZAM used to be associated with, and none of the bad things that curse actually *did*.

    Maybe thats just me.

    • You cannot even slightly see it from their perspective? Hell, if I ran a site where people could download addons and my only source of revenue was advertising, then I wouldn’t look too kindly on a program that was designed to completely bypass the site.

      I have been using the Curse Client since the release and never had any problem with it.

      ZAM is involved in gold selling. That sentence should be enough to scorn them forever.

  3. It’s vaguely amusing that Curse bought MMO-C, because they already had a similar site in their network, Teza’s But ultimately I think Boubouille is pretty much established as god of data-miners with a lot of inside scoop, so it’s definitely the biggest news site out there.

    @dwism: I am always shocked at the ignorance of users who are still mourning wowmatrix. ‘The addon updater that worked’ allowed downloads of addons they had no permission to distribute, directly violating the addon authors’ wishes, did not properly credit authors and directly bypassed revenue of the actual hosting sites, WowInterface and Curse. They were doing all the hosting and covering of bandwidth, and wowmatrix simply leeched. If someone used your wifi to steal all your bandwidth, you’d try to protect yourself too, wouldn’t you?

    I like the recent Curse Client very much, works flawlessly, and I’ve even considered subscribing, because that money goes to the authors in part. Without supporting addon authors, you get no addons.

    (Spink, you can delete the other reply, apparently I can’t type today).

    • Well I would beg to differ, (ill try to keep this derailing short) wowmatrix had a nifty little button that said: “this is the author want to donate to them -directly”. Instead of a % like curse does.
      And speaking of leeching, I know plenty of addons on curses site, that the authors kept telling people to go to their own site to get (or to wowinterface), but was unable to get off curses dl site.

      @ the “if you no pay, you no get addons” Oh really? I could have sworn that the (best?) majority of addons where made by fans, and not people who wanted profit.

      • Sorry for the derailing here, Spinks, I just wanted to clarify. Curse and WowI still let you donate to the authors directly too with a handy button as well, not just a share. Both sites actually pay the hosting bills and traffic costs for when people download. Wowmatrix didn’t. It leeched. The authors support Curse and WowI and spoke out against Wowmatrix. I’d be happy to dig out links to show where authors describe what went on with the whole Wowmatrix deal.

        I never said you should pay for addons. I am not a Curse subscriber. I said you should support the authors, and I did not mean this financially.

  4. I don’t know if about this…when Boubouille is talking about premuims and hiring more moderators to “Disneyfi” the commentary there, I suspect the folks who post and read MMO-Champs have just become a commodity instead of a community somehow. Something like what happened to WoW when Blizz introduced “sparkle pony” cash shops and Real ID. The soul of a good thing starts to leak away…

  5. I don’t visit MMO-Champion for the commentary, although I sometimes take a peek to see what “the public” in general feel about some new feature. I got there to get the latest blue posts, and I don’t see how the site working for Curse is going to change any of that.

    I, for one, welcome our new Curse overlords.

  6. I, also, feel a sense of loss when a fansite goes pro. Primarily, I guess, because I enjoy reading diverse, spirited debate and with the large, commercial sites I don’t think you get that. What I see a lot from sites that go commercial is a dilution of product (in this case, “thought”) – in other words, a mainstream party line as opposed to an individual opinion. And, unfortunately, as the party line gets viewed more and more, it somehow becomes dictum and anyone not following the “party line” is criticized. The result? Cookie-cutter specs, required addons, gearscore ruling the day and individualism cast aside.

    Hmm, wow, did I just depress myself. Wonder if a sparkly pony would help?

  7. Pingback: QQ, Minstrel Boy « M.M.O.S.H

  8. Zam was a good site for final fantasy xi fans, it wound up being the “casual” forum as opposed to the “hardcore” ones of blue garter and killing ifrit. Since FFXI had no official forums, it became one almost by default.

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