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Forums > Announcements & Site Feedback > Contemplating trying meta again...

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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: May 14, 2013 (05:29 PM)
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Okay, I'll try to keep this brief (and everyone rolls their eyes)...

HonestGamers has recently placed significant emphasis on retro content. This has had some real benefits, because people are starting to view us as a leading source for regular coverage of old games. There's still a long way to go, but we've come a long way. However, that progress has also caused some unfortunate issues, including the deactivation of our links on GameRankings (which I just found out about today) due to the low volume of reviews that we are pushing live for games that GameRankings actually features on its site.

That change was a reminder to me that although there are a few high-quality meta sites (including GameRankings and Metacritics, neither of which lists us now), there aren't a lot of meta sites that cater to our audience. I was thinking that now would be a good time to make another stab at providing that service to gamers who like to read a variety of opinions for older games. And by "now," I most likely mean "a few weeks from now."

As you might have noticed, I've recently been spending a LOT of time--dozens and dozens of hours--in the database. As a result, our listings for retro games are now pretty close to where I've wanted to have them for years. In a few more weeks, we'll perhaps be all the way there. That of course means a lot of listings are available for games we haven't yet covered (and populated with new data), but I think there can still be value on those pages if we link to content from other sites. We can become the first reasonable stop for nearly all retro review content on the Internet, and that would be a huge win, especially since retro content seems to be enjoying an upswing in popularity.

The site wouldn't have to change much at all to accommodate such a change. Pages would still function as they do now, with staff reviews at the top, then user reviews. The difference is that now we would include links to external reviews below any available on-site reviews, just above the Disqus comments field. If there is no content on HG at the moment, then those reviews would of course appear nearer to the top of the page... and I will of course continue to work to make sure that we're posting a bunch of great new content related to important old games. This change would increase the value of many, many pages on the site and would also help all pages to perform better on search engines in the long term. Most importantly, it would help to contribute to HG's image as a high-quality, comprehensive site for retro information.

Anyway, I'm thinking this is a great idea and that now is the time to add that value. Now that we've stripped the site down to its core functions, I'm being very picky about adding any new features because I want to make sure that everything we do on every page contributes to that specific page's goal. This update would definitely qualify.

Anyway, I welcome discussion from each of you, and I'm happy to provide additional details about why I think this is a good idea (mostly it's boring SEO stuff, which is why I haven't already gone into more depth) if any of you need that.

Thanks for all of your contributions to the site thus far, everyone, and for your continued support as we work harder than ever to become the dominant portal to retro game coverage!


"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy on reality

"What if everything you see is more than what you see--the person next to you is a warrior and the space that appears empty is a secret door to another world? What if something appears that shouldn't? You either dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than you think. Perhaps it really is a doorway, and if you choose to go inside, you'll find many unexpected things." - Shigeru Miyamoto


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Author: overdrive (Mod)
Posted: May 15, 2013 (12:09 PM)
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Sounds good to me, as long as there's no situation where a person would have to wade through external links to get to our actual reviews. Which it doesn't sound like, from this post.


I'm not afraid to die because I am invincible
Viva la muerte, that's my goddamn principle


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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: May 15, 2013 (02:08 PM)
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Yeah, the goal here would be to add value to our own reviews, not subtract for it by presenting them as second rate. This would ensure that nearly every page someone might find on the site (by following a link from Twitter or a search engine or whatever) will have valuable content that justifies the click. As people feel more confident whenever they click an HonestGamers link--because they know they'll find something of value on pretty much any page--they'll find themselves exposed to more and more of our content and maybe some of them will even feel more inclined to contribute new user reviews here to boot.

I like a situation where the site can truly offer a valuable service to nearly anyone who visits, and that would this could allow. Plus I can set it up so that I approve or reject all links through email, meaning no additional work whatsoever for the rest of you staff guys, who can can continue focusing on the current user review queues... or on writing new content for the site. As I see it, this is win-win-win, and that's why I'm pushing the idea.


"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy on reality

"What if everything you see is more than what you see--the person next to you is a warrior and the space that appears empty is a secret door to another world? What if something appears that shouldn't? You either dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than you think. Perhaps it really is a doorway, and if you choose to go inside, you'll find many unexpected things." - Shigeru Miyamoto


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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: May 15, 2013 (03:03 PM)
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How many times does this have to fail before it's seen as the massive waste of time and effort it truely is.

A much better use of effort would be trying everything under the sun to get back on Gamerankings, which was the last really good thing this site could offer. With that gone (along with the critic links for gfaqs and gspot) traffics going to eventually half. It's not in killer shape as it is.

You should be thinking damage control, not daydreaming of the next huge timesink thats achieves a sum total of nothing.


For us. For them. For you.


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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: May 15, 2013 (03:13 PM)
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Unless I can find five or six capable and generous people who are willing to dependably contribute 3 or 4 reviews apiece for hot new releases every month at the rates I'm able to offer for that volume--and so far, I haven't even come close--we're unlikely to ever see GameRankings link to us again.

I tried everything that I reasonably could to make that happen, but there are limits to what I can do and there are limits to what I can reasonably ask others to do also. For awhile, I paid $50/review and offered whatever review copies we could manage to obtain. Though that rate is actually very competitive (even most sites much larger than HonestGamers don't offer any better, and a number of those sites offer much less), it was not enough to attract the number of truly qualified candidates that we need in order to cover more than a few games each month. In fact, the people it attracted were as likely as not to totally flake on me, leaving me scrambling--and often failing--to find someone that could fill the gap.

If I were to offer $100 per review--which is above the going rate for any but the top 5 or 10 game sites online--I could probably get a few more people interested. However, I would then by paying $1500 a month for reviews, and the site would still be bringing in around $20 to $25/month in ad revenue. You can see how that might pose a problem, if not immediately then certainly in the long term. Besides, I don't make enough money that I can afford to spend $1500 of it on the site every month. That's unlikely to change, and in fact I'm more likely to come upon harder financial times down the road.

If I kept the rate at $50 per review and secured 15 timely reviews for hot new games, that would work out to a hefty $750/month expense for editorial... and still we would be lucky to hit $25/month in ad revenue in a typical month.

Asking people to write for free doesn't work for HonestGamers anymore the way it did in the early days when everyone was excited just to be able to talk about games online, because to a certain extent we're a victim of our own (limited) success. People look at the site and assume I can pay all kinds of money just because there are visible ads. Mostly, we would have to accept reviews of the sort that would damage our reputation that we've earned through the years--a reputation for quality that I will is worth fighting for--or I'd have to find a lot of people who are outnumbered by the number of articles available online that caution even inexperienced writers from producing content for free.

The Internet is consolidating. Companies are buying other companies before being bought out themselves. There's a network of a few sites that has a stranglehold on the sort of content that GameRankings promotes, and that stranglehold prevents the smaller players from being able to survive by producing more of the same. That's why I decided a few months ago to focus on what we do best: retro content. But we're not the only site providing retro content, and there's a lot of retro content to cover. So the way I see it, the only way HonestGamers has a real future is if it can come to be viewed as an undisputed top-5 resource for retro content, not just by people who are already familiar with all that we already offer, but by many other people who might enjoy our content but are unaware that we exist.

The meta initiative would allow us to reach that larger audience, because it would offer an incentive for content partners to wish for our success. As long as I can afford to do so, I will continue to pay freelancers and staff for quality retro reviews. For that to work in the long term and for traffic from search engines and social media to continue climbing (as it has been), though, I need to look for ways to add additional value to every possible page on the site.

I can't force anyone to believe me when I say that this move is the result of quite a few hours of careful contemplation. And as I noted in my original post, it is spurred in part by our recent de-listing from GameRankings, which was unexpected and entirely unwelcome. However, this potential move isn't part of some effort to pretend that never happened. On the contrary: it is part of the only reasonable reaction that our resources permit.


"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy on reality

"What if everything you see is more than what you see--the person next to you is a warrior and the space that appears empty is a secret door to another world? What if something appears that shouldn't? You either dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than you think. Perhaps it really is a doorway, and if you choose to go inside, you'll find many unexpected things." - Shigeru Miyamoto


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Author: bigcj34
Posted: August 08, 2013 (04:13 PM)
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I was neutral about Disqus, it had its advantages. The only alternative would be to have a commenting system that didn't require registration. Having written for Thunderbolt, they have a similar system but just use a captcha to post.

Thunderbolt is an interesting precedent for people who write their games for free, but they do get free review copies and passes to gaming events. I think HG is right to diversify with retro games, and does work well. While the streamlining of systems was a logical move, putting PC games into that was a bizarre decision.

As for social media usage, it needs to be all-or-nothing on terms of promoting the site. Being off Gamerankings doesn't help though, but can Metacritic be of any use?


There three types of people in this world: those who can count, and those who can't.


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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: August 08, 2013 (04:41 PM)
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Conversations are more likely to happen when you can be sure you're talking to the person indicated, even if the person indicated is just using a single username. I don't like captchas at all. They really annoy me and they annoy most people. They're either not very effective--because someone didn't want to annoy people too much--or they're extremely effective because no one can even decipher them.

As far as Metacritic goes, I tried to get our stuff on that site for years. I pushed pretty hard for basically eight full years, and it just didn't happen. Our retro focus doesn't increase the likelihood of being featured on Metacritic, either, since that site only covers the newer games. There's not really a great meta site for the variety of older systems we cover, which is one reason I thought I might try a meta feature again. I still have a lot of database work to do, though...


"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy on reality

"What if everything you see is more than what you see--the person next to you is a warrior and the space that appears empty is a secret door to another world? What if something appears that shouldn't? You either dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than you think. Perhaps it really is a doorway, and if you choose to go inside, you'll find many unexpected things." - Shigeru Miyamoto


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