Scroll To Top

Videogame community website DO’s and DON’T’s

Features 12 Feb 2012

In mid-2009 I wrote a piece for Jason Hill’s Screenplay blog about the realisms of creating a video game website. Although most of the points raised are still relevant, I felt a bit of an update was needed, especially since I’ve been talking to other likeminded people lately who are embarking on their own perilous online adventures.

To simplify, here are the DO’s and DON’T’s of creating your own videogame website.

 

DON’T …

… expect to get rich. You won’t. You will lose money. Here are some examples of better financial investments:

- Going to the casino and playing roulette. At the blackjack table. While drunk.
– Lending money to a friend who swears his investment is a sure thing ‘this time’.
– Buying the girl behind the bar drinks in the hope she’ll get drunk enough to sleep with you. She won’t. She can drink more than you. Trust me.

If you can accept this as a truth, you’ve got a much higher chance of succeeding. Don’t get me completely wrong, down the track when you have enough traffic you might be in a position to get a media aggregator to include you in their network, or convince someone to sponsor your site for a while.

Just keep in mind that sometimes advertising can hurt more than help you, especially if your community respond negatively to it.

DON’T …

… expect that if you build it, they will come. Surprised as you may be, worldwide celebration will not break out once your shiny new gaming mecca is online, unless you already have a dedicated fan base or following.

You might write the be all and end all article that shatters the ‘Call of Duty vs Battlefield’ debate, just don’t expect anyone to actually read it. Not yet. And more importantly, once that article has been published, it’s already irrelevant. Do you think people will sift through your back catalogue of articles just for kicks?

DON’T …

… go it alone. You’ll need help. Whether that be friends with technical skills, graphic design expertise, editors, journalists … it doesn’t matter, just don’t do this on your own.

Most importantly though, even if your site doesn’t become the next IGN killer, you’ll at least have friends who you can share the journey with, people who are reading what you write and giving you the exact kind of feedback you need.

DON’T …

… make the website if you’re not a website developer. Seriously. Get some help from experienced people, because if you want your site to be taken even semi-seriously, it needs to look the part.

The only exception to this is if you’re just looking to create a bit of a blog for yourself as opposed to an actual gaming community. Go nuts, get wordpress, vent to the world, just don’t expect anyone to actually take what you say seriously.

DON’T …

… expect freebies just because you have a site. Getting review copies and attending preview events is a privilege, not a right. As much as possible, put yourself in the position of the gaming publishers and realise that they need to justify all their actions to international publisher HQ. They need to show that sending a free copy of this game to your site to review was a good investment, in terms of quality, content, and traffic (Traffic. Traffic. Traffic.).

Give them a reason to support you, without compromising your editorial integrity. It can be tough starting out with (especially when you don’t have much to leverage), but building solid relationships is the key to succeeding.

 

DO …

… have a point of difference. What’s going to set your site apart from ALL the others? Because I gotta be honest with you, if you simply assume that your content will simply be ‘better’ than anything else out there, that’s not going to be enough. Not only that, but taking the Australian element into consideration, you need to realise that you will rarely be the first to preview or review a game.

Not only will the larger sites take preference, but they can also leverage content from their international counterparts. Game Informer can feature a studio tour, interview, and preview on Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us because the US arm is bigger and has better access. Australia is less than 2% of the global market, you can’t compete.

So look for something else. SneakyBastards by PC Powerplay deputy editor Dan Hindes is a site that completely focuses on stealth based gaming elements. Tsumea is entirely about the local Australian/New Zealand game development industry. Even AustralianGamer started out as a localised version of Penny Arcade, then expanded to focus on the personalities behind the content.

DO …

… update constantly and consistently. It’s about longevity and consistency, realise today’s article is tomorrow’s archive. If you can’t regularly post content on the front of your site, you won’t convince people to keep coming back to see what’s new.

DO …

… use social media. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Flickr, Youtube, Digg, everything and anything. Keep them consistently updated along with your main website content, interlinking them all together. You may only get 10 people following your Google Plus page, but that’s 10 people you wouldn’t have had to engage with otherwise.

Also take note, publishers DO consider social media when looking at the reach of your publication and deciding on whether they will support you or not.

DO …

… promote your site at every opportunity. Not to the point of being annoying, keep it relevant and topical to any conversations you might be having. When AustralianGamer first started out, I would take every opportunity I could to post a link to stories that were appropriate in the relevant threads. I offered to create graphical sigs for popular gaming forum members as long as they referenced AustralianGamer in them. I would get guests on our podcast and make sure they posted their involvement on their website/blog/facebook.

You don’t necessarily need to outline a full on marketing campaign, just always look for new opportunities to grow your sites reputation and readership.

DO …

… live in Sydney. Australian specific again, but frankly if you want to be taken seriously quickly you need to be based in Sydney. It’s where all the gaming publishers (with the exception of Nintendo and THQ) are based, and where the majority of videogame specialist media are. Everyone knows everyone; it’s a massive social network of friends and colleagues and if you want to be taken seriously and get your review/preview content, your life will be a hellofalot easier being based here.

Although AustralianGamer was created by myself and Matt being based in Brisbane, it took many years and many interstate flights to cultivate the kind of relationships (and friendships) to make our presence felt amongst the gaming sectors.

 

So there you have it, I know the tone of this article might sound a bit harsh, but if you’re going to give this a shot you need to make sure you’re aware of the reality of the situation. Keep in mind of course, these are all just my personal opinions, I’d be interested to hear what other gaming community operators would have to say.

And if you need any help, feel free to contact me – I’ll happy put you in contact with the Publisher PR people, local developers, or website developers if you’re serious.

And remember, if someone like me can wrangle my way into this industry to the point where I’m being paid to drink and play videogames for a living – you’re in with a good chance too :)

 

About the author

Yug

15 Comments

  1. Rachel
    February 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

    A good guide! I feel another DON’T should be added onto this:

    ‘Don’t have a gaming website if all you want to do is slag stuff off’.

    I’ve seen plenty of new gaming blogs/sites like this and all they do is pick stuff they hate to rag on it. There are enough negative trolls on the web without having a whole gaming blog dedicated to whining, you know?

    I like a site that mixes constructive criticism with tongue in cheek mocking of something awful.


    • Yug
      February 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

      True, although sometimes that CAN be the point of difference. Though people like Yahtzee and the Angry Videogame Nerd back up their criticisms with well researched facts, and have built themselves up to be authorities on the topic of video games.

      People have to care about what the person has to say before they’ll actually want to read it.


  2. Paul Gray - Bubble Gum Interactive
    February 12, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Great Tips Yug! They’re not only super relevant in the games space but could be easily applied to any other similar content or entertainment driven field.

    I totally agree with all the points on the effort people would need to put in. The thing I would really emphasise is that they need to think of their site as a conversation starter, not a newsfeed – what will keep people coming back is the engagement via comments. People sharing their own thoughts or experience on each topic is natural but you have to work hard to encourage this.

    Ask questions, pose side-questions, invite people to comment on articles you think might interest them. It’s bloody hard work – but it will help get the community more engaged with each other – which ultimately benefits everyone.


    • Yug
      February 12, 2012 at 11:43 am

      Very much so, it’s the foundation of most community websites, and it’s essential to engage and nurture your community.

      Looking at the traffic stats on AustralianGamer, only 10% of our total traffic post on our forums, but those readers are our bread and butter – our regulars, our daily readers, our ambassadors.


  3. Adam Guetti
    February 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for this Yug! I’m actually in the process of building an indie blog of my own, so your insight is incredibly useful and I will definitely take your points into great consideration.


  4. Aaron Redmond
    February 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks for the insite. I have started a gaming community website to coincide with a podcast I am a co-host of called “The Screwed Gamers Podcast”. We are trying to update as much as possible. We have a few friends helping us out with content. I will take these DO’s and DONT’s on board to help improved out site and podcast!

    Thanks Yug.


  5. FunkyJ
    February 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    You missed a “Do”…

    Keep at it.

    Xboxworld.com.au is entering it’s 10th year now, and although it’s never set the world on fire, and it’s forum activity has been extinguished by social media, it’s still quietly getting reviews done, and news updates regularly.

    Not bad for a console specific website based out of Melbourne.


  6. Cav
    February 12, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    That certainly is a good looking banner for your article right there :P


  7. Robin Wilde
    February 12, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Great article Yug! We’re British, but I was originally inspired by Australian Gamer.

    We ARE currently using WordPress (I know, I know) but we’re looking into hiring a designer when we can afford it (being college students sucks).

    We’ve definitely noticed how helpful social networking can be. We’ve currently got around 35 followers on Twitter – not many, but it includes people like thatgamecompany and the creator of Crash Bandicoot.

    We’ve found one of the best ways to get traffic early on is to run interviews/Q&A sessions. Find someone who’s in some way relevant to gaming news, hunt down some contact information and fire off an email. Worst that can happen is they say no!


  8. Epona Schweer
    February 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    I’m used to writing for indies looking for a solid kick in the pants about what they should be doing to launch their business.

    Not used to being the one getting kicked in the pants.

    Great article. And a reminder that I need to get off my ass and start promoting.

    Would also include: “DO make friends and assume everyone is worth knowing. The games industry in Australia is small and we have long memories.”


  9. Souri
    February 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I can certainly attest to the “DON’T expect to get rich. You won’t. You will lose money” bullet point.

    tsumea has been around for nearly ten years now, and for my all time spent working on the site, I could have made more money flipping burgers part time at a fast food chain instead. Like, over a dozen times as much, and I’m not even kidding.

    The thing is, tsumea was never intentioned to make any money whatsoever – money was never the driving force behind the site. For the first four years of the site’s existence, I didn’t even make a cent and all operating costs came out of my own pocket.

    Being passionate about your area of interest is the motivator, and I guess that’s the big reason why tsumea is still going. If it’s for the money, I would highly suggest you play some roulette too as Yug mentioned ;)


    • Josh Parsons
      March 2, 2012 at 5:57 am

      To anyone reading the above comment and feeling discouraged to start your own website, stop right now. This person doesn’t have the slightest clue what it takes to make a gaming website.

      You’re telling me you’ve spent 10 years making your website and THIS is all you can come up with?

      Look at your homepage, it’s a mess. No one cares about your “twitter friends”. There’s 5 million links, what are you trying to get your users to click on?

      The design is terrible and there’s no immediate “about” section on the front page so upon a quick glance I can even tell what the website is about.

      You have 82 ‘likes’ on Facebook which leads me to believe you’ve put no effort into your social media strategy.

      In all seriousness though, I could rant about the million and one problems there are with this website but I doubt it would make a difference. Stop wondering why you’re not making money and produce a better website.


      • Yug
        March 2, 2012 at 6:04 am

        Thing is, Tsumea.com isn’t a typical gaming consumer website – it’s targeted towards the local game development scene, and has been servicing it successfully for the last 10 years.

        I agree with the concept that good website UI should be implimented on all websites, but the narrative is different for all of them.

        Funny enough, Tsumea linking to the twitter accounts of all the local industry people provides a unified and easy to follow view of everything that is happening in the local development scene.

        Have another look at Tsumea.com in context :)


      • Souri
        March 2, 2012 at 9:01 am

        The point of my post was to reiterate what Yug said, that it *IS* difficult to get rich from a website, particularly if yours is an Australian focussed game-related one. It’s hard for print mags as well for similar reasons. The audience numbers just aren’t here. No amount of design improvements, social media strategies, Facebook likes etc will change this fact.

        Yug knows well about this. The guy who runs Vooks.net will attest to this, as would the previous owner of PALGN, James G, who I’ve discussed this issue about in the past. These are webmasters who have ran sites for many, many years, as I have, providing great content and with a whole lot of hard work. It’s got crap-all to do with how many Facebook likes you have.

        If your expectations of making a website is to get rich quick and you’re disheartened to hear about this, then I’ve done my job. However, don’t let that stop you from making the prettiest site you can make and getting as much Facebook ‘likes’ you can get to make that internet money come rolling in.

        As for the design aspects of tsumea, well, personally, I think it’s a whole lot cleaner and neater than some of the more popular portals out there. Ninemsn for example. But what do I know, I don’t have a clue, right.

        “This person doesn’t have the slightest clue what it takes to make a gaming website.

        You’re telling me you’ve spent 10 years making your website and THIS is all you can come up with?”

        I get the feeling that you’ve browsed tsumea for a few minutes and summarised everything it is just from looking at the way it looks.

        We’ve done a whole lot in those ten years for the local games development industry.


  10. Hwa Jessop
    March 4, 2012 at 1:13 am

    You need to always make a visual sitemap in order to more accurately plan ahead. A visual sitemap enables you to precisely watch over the development of your website. This allows you to quickly identify areas of your website that have been overlooked, or could use improvements. When you have a clear visual, anything is possible.


Leave A Response

Click here to cancel reply.