Are Blogs Good Or Bad For The MMO Industry?

Flash Gordon - Saviour of the Universe

My name is Gordon and I'm still alive.

It’s been a strange week. Strange in the sense that I’ve spent most of it recovering from an illness that has come to be known by many in my household (well, just me actually) as The Deadliest Plague In The World. As the name suggests, it’s a illness so deadly that it’s already claimed the lives of thousands along the South Asian Subcontinent and would have inevitably felled any lesser man than myself (or so I’ve been telling my wife repeatedly). In fact, I should also probably make it clear that my constant and consistent high pitched childlike moaning to her was a necessary side effect of my superior body expelling this extreme toxin of death. Fortunately I’m a hard man to put down and, suffice to say, Gordon’s alive.

Although nothing good came from my sickness, I did have plenty of time to consider reality, existence, the meaning of life and, more importantly, MMORPGs and one day,whilst quivering in a feverish pool of man mess, I pondered the affect of blogs on the MMO industry and whether or not they were actually any bloody good for it.

The Bad

I suppose most people would immediately leap to the conclusion that of course they are beneficial but, playing devil’s advocate, there are actually plenty of negatives which stem from blogging, some which may be downright detrimental to the MMO industry. For instance, blogs can carry a lot of sway with readers and the authors opinion can be a powerful voice and I’ve often worried about being negative towards a company or product, even in the sense of doing so for critique or humour, that it may damage the life expectancy of the game. No matter how much I dislike something, I’m not sure I – or any other blogger – has the right to damage even a small percentage of a game’s success by swaying public opinion. As a reader of many blogs, this affect can clearly be seen with the new Final Fantasy MMO and my decision to stay away from it upon release, solely and entirely based upon some reviews and opinions of several blogs that I read.

And indeed the sheer amount of information thrust upon readers through blogging can be quite detrimental too. I wonder how many people have skipped dialogue and lore or bypassed entire quests because of some guide found on some blog? Or how many people have gone straight for the walkthrough or strategy tips rather than taking on that raid boss with their guild blind for the first time, as intended? These things don’t do the developers and designers the justice they deserve.

And let’s not forget that too much information can ruin some good surprises, I statement that I’m happy to make as I now know absolutely everything about Cataclysm without ever having played it once.

The Good

The benefits of blogs on the industry though can be as equally dramatic. Much like a wealth of negative reviews and opinions can kill a MMO, a spurt of strong public favorability can take a game from the unknown realm into the heights of success or even bring them back from the brink of death. The hype generated through blogs can push new games, expansions, F2P releases, patches, and even individual micro payment items. Where there is negativity to be found, there is also a huge amount of positivity and hope, the only difference being where it’s shone upon.

Likewise the wealth of information available on blogs is a double edged sword, the good side being that every minor aspect and detail of every MMO ever is available for scrutiny to aid and help any who may need it. No longer does the scrawny noob have to cower in ignorance, no longer does the min/maxer have to waste countless hours in useless experimentation, and no longer does our impatience have to be an irritation if we don’t wish it to be.

To me though, probably the most valuable aspect from blogging (which, even though this is just a whimsical discussion, probably does outweigh every negative side) are the communities that it helps generate. I’ve had countless friend requests and offers of guilds for a variety of MMO through this blog that I would never had had otherwise and there many blogs out there who dedicate themselves completely to helping new players get established. There’s certainly no negative side to that.

So what are you thoughts on this rather lovely philosophical subject? Toss your cents, weigh in, and dip your wick while I slink off and attempt to milk some more sympathy in my convalescence.

-Gordon

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36 Comments

  1. Cuppycake says:

    Honestly, (and I say this with utmost respect, being that I’m a blogger) I don’t think blogs matter either way. The tiny amount of people who read blogs compared to the grand scheme of things is minuscule. I don’t think blogs have an impact on the sales of games. I don’t think they really matter when it comes to the health of the industry. I think bloggers think their audiences are much larger and more mainstream than they really are, and I don’t think they’re swaying the opinion of anyone other than this tight core of blog-reading players. :)

  2. Tipa says:

    Sounds like you’re arguing against “word of mouth”, which is all blogs really are, in the end.

    • Klepsacovic says:

      Blogs are word of mouth which persists long after opinion or fact has changed. When a MMO is new and everyone is searching and finding the bugs, down it goes. As it matures and fixes, the highest results are still the old posts about how bad it was. Obviously it’s best to just not release buggy, bad games, but mistakes happen and the permanence of outdated information can permanently damn a game.

      Overall though, I’d say good. Bloggers add stories, ideas, tricks, tips, and fun that no one could think up in isolation. Adding another layer of social interactions and ties brings players in and keeps them playing, which means time and money for devs to refine their product.

  3. @Cuppy

    I think you are wrong, but its a signal vs noise thing. So much is out there, it’s impossible to ascertain whats worthwhile. Generally, most bloggers are in the noise, but a lot of us are hitting the signal and don’t even know it (and I agree that I’m in the noise).

  4. Whether it’s positive or negative, I’d like to think blogs make a difference. The MMO industry is pretty large though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a whole lot of other factors have greater influence. Blogs only reflect a relatively small part of the community, though I certainly like seeing that community grow more and more each day.

    Glad to hear you’re feeling better!

    • Gordon says:

      I’ve often wondered how many developers read blogs and how much heed they pay them. I suppose if reading blogs is very common amongst employees of games companies themselves then they could have an impact, even if it’s just subconcious.

      “Glad to hear you’re feeling better!”

      Thanks! :D

  5. JeffM says:

    Glad you’re on the mend Gordon. Having recently closed down a blog I can say that yes a blogger can have an effect on the industry, yet the number of Bloggers that industry types listen to are very small. The Company Of The Wolf had its share of developers who stopped by just as WFS does, but reading and listening are two separate things entirely.

    Perhaps that is for the best.

  6. Wasdstomp says:

    The blogging community is much bigger than just our blogs. Take Twitter for example. My twitter is pretty active these days. It helps me interact more with my readers than if they just leave comments on my blog.

    For example the week before PAX, and after PAX I added anyone who talked about PAX on twitter. If you follow me you will notice I am following over 1000 people now, and my followers jumped from about 75 to over 200. How many people am I affecting with my tweets, and blog posts advertised on twitter. How many retweets? That 200 could turn into 100k real easy. It is really that simple how things go viral these days.

    Anyways I have ended up having conversations with people that never even knew about my blog. They still may not even know it, but we can carry on conversations, and influence alot of people by our voice.

    How many people recently did I influence to play League of Legends? Just look at my twitter, and comments on my blog. How many of those told someone else. I was linked twice today about my League of Legends post on other blogs. Our impact is very huge.

    If you read my post on my other blog about how to make shitloads of money on your gaming blog you would know that by looking at my video views on Youtube, and my blogs that the most searched, and visited pages on my blog are my guides, walkthroughs, and etc.

    No one really cares about most of my other posts except the day I post them, and than they are lost in a deep internet world that never provokes a google search.

    • Gordon says:

      “No one really cares about most of my other posts except the day I post them, and than they are lost in a deep internet world that never provokes a google search.”

      On a side note, one of my bug bears with blogs is this very fact and that the lifespan of a blog post is very short. I’d love to read more articles from my favourite bloggers, for intance, but just finding themselves or knowing what to check out can be very difficult!

  7. amcl says:

    Glad the tequila has finally left your system and that we did not catch your man-flu ;)

    The good: WeFlySpitFires was born :)

  8. Larísa says:

    Let’s put it this way: Very few if any bloggers can onehandedly initiate a change of the public opinion about a game. However: the industry would probably make wise to not completely ignore it. You’d better have an idea of what people say about you and your product. It doesn’t come out of nothing and it does represent something, even though not necessarily a majority of the players. Like for instance the Real ID issue. Blog reading can be one way (out of many) to stay in touch with your consumers.

    I don’t get that thing about that you shouldn’t have right to write something that might affect a game negatively. Why not?

    About publishing spoilers, guides etc… well it’s really volontary to read them. It’s not like the bloggers are forcing it down in the throats of the poor players. However to me personally, as a blogger and blog reader, the informative blogs aren’t what really captures my interest. It’s about the community, the exchange of ideas and opinions. The joy of writing and sharing, of looking at WoW from different perspectives. It’s a part of my game experience. Without it I doubt I’d still be playing.

    • Gordon says:

      “I don’t get that thing about that you shouldn’t have right to write something that might affect a game negatively. Why not?”

      I suppose I just feel too much guilt sometimes ;)

    • Snafzg says:

      I agree with Larissa here. My personal opinion is that bloggers are little hubs of a larger community voice. You’ll get a few soapbox bloggers that are out of tune with general sentiment, but mostly I think we’re writing about things that most people are feeling but rarely put into words.

      And while individual blogs may not hold much sway or power (though some actually do – e.g., Techcrunch, Mashable, Engadget, or hundreds of others), I really think its about the collective voice of bloggers. Often we’re tracking back to each others posts writing about our own thoughts on key issues.

      And I totally think its within our rights to speak up about issues or products we’re passionate about. People should be held accountable for their words and actions, including bloggers. I wouldn’t feel guilty telling my friend how horrible a movie was and to suggest he not go see it, so why not write about it on my blog? Alternatively, great movies can attract even more attention through viral Internet chat.

      • Gordon says:

        “And I totally think its within our rights to speak up about issues or products we’re passionate about.”

        Yeah, I think you’re right. Blogs are just opinions after all and I suppose you’re dead on in that me sharing my thoughts on something – good OR bad – on it is no different then saying it to a friend in RL.

  9. Tesh says:

    I get 80 hits on a good day. No doubt some of those are repeats, especially if there’s a fiery discussion going on. Almost 10% of them are *still* visiting an article where I wrote about that blue Avatar movie, months ago, and some days it’s my biggest article. Almost a quarter of my comments disagree with my posts, and almost all big MMO devs do things I flat out disagree with or would do differently.

    I’m not changing the industry with my blog. I’m entertaining a few stalwart readers who sift through the tish tosh, and occasionally spurring someone to think. I’m promoting games I like and those I’ve worked on, and I level criticism where I feel it’s merited. (Constructive criticism is important.)

    I’m having fun writing and getting thoughts and artwork out there. I’m making friends and getting the occasional art request. If I could change the industry, I’d do it, but I don’t have the leverage. I can’t even get programmers to help me make some of the games I want to. I don’t even think anyone I work with regularly reads my blog.

    Blogging in general is useful inasmuch as it’s a barometer of what a vocal segment of the playerbase is saying… but it’s neither the savior nor the destroyer of MMO worlds.

    • Gordon says:

      I think you’re right. Blogs help show what’s going on in the industry but probably don’t have too much of an effective on it otherwise.

      • Snafzg says:

        But some blogs can. Even the MMO industry feels that way. For instance, how many game companies approach Tobold every week to pitch their product to his reader base? If what he says is true, my guess is quite a few.

        I personally felt a little bit of a “power” buzz when I ran TheGreenskin, a blog dedicated to Warhammer Online. At one point I was getting 60,000 readers a month, which isn’t small potatoes given the game maxed out at 750,000 subscribers in its first month.

        Did what I write ever actually affect that game’s fate? Probably not to a large degree, but it’s hard to tell. Who knows how many people who read my exuberant commentary leading up to release actually bought the game or rants about issues they needed to fix chose not to buy it.

        I do know that as the months passed after release my general attitude toward the game dwindled and so did their subscriber numbers. My feeling is that I was probably following along with the disappointed masses rather than leading them, but again it’s hard to actually prove one way or another.

  10. Ratshag says:

    Now, I just write a silly little blog, and if any buggers done took me ramblings as guidance fer they oughtta do this or not do that, well, then, they needs fer ta lay off the felweed. Other blogs, of course, done has different styles and takes the nothionizings of gettin’ out a message way more seriouslies. Even so, even a small MMO has an advertising budget way bigger than the revenue generated by a personal gaming blog. If’n they can’t handle that kinda heat, well then they’s doin’ somethin’ wrong.

  11. Keen says:

    Blogs matter enough for developers to continually visit them, mention them and link to them, and send them promotional marketing-related tie-ins.

    Good or bad depends on the month. They have little effect on great games. They have enormous effect on games that could go either way. Blogs have enormous and often detrimental effects on bad games.

  12. Nice topic! I think i’ll write my opinion later on this on my own blog to comment on. However whether a blog is negative or positive in nature/tone and in the author that writes that blog whether you agree with the blog/blogger as a whole it does have some effect on the community and readers that reads it that plays that game.

    Yes blogs are word of mouth/page advertising for that game or any particular game or due to the author playing that game as it conveys some the experience of that person playing that game to someone else not having played it before. Blogs do have influence on games and most game developers i’m sure do take notice of that in whatever way they do about their game. And if its a really bad game the results or noise will be much louder heard across a community.

    As a gamer and blogger myself i’ve benefited tremendously reading other blogs to know what other games is out there. learn about games even though i may not play because the author plays as well as learning more about a game more than i should because so much information content is out there to read it all. And i’ve read a plenty more than the average gamer does who don’t even read blogs.

    Blogs are fairly good for the industry, some mmo gamers overall attitude are not!

  13. Werit says:

    I think it depends on the blog. It’s a place to talk about the games you enjoy, like we did with friends in school (well, I did anyway). It’s also a good place to find information. So overall I think they are good. I might be biased though ;)

  14. Wolfshead says:

    I agree with Cuppy on this one. Great topic :)

    To expand on this, I think most non-corporate blogs have very little positive impact on the video game industry. The people who work in the video game industry (putting in 16 hours a day) have precious little time to while away an afternoon and read blog posts from people who think they know how to design a game. At least that was my experience in the industry. Perhaps if you are in senior management at a video game company would you have this kind of leisure time but I highly doubt it.

    If you are going to blog about anything, do it because you enjoy it. That’s why I do it. I haven’t made a penny from my blog despite having a few advertisements. I write mainly because it feels good getting things off my chest. If a game designer someday is inspired or moved by what I’ve written then that’s great, if not then it’s not going to ruin my day either.

    I also write because there is very little accountability in the official gaming press to keep video game companies honest and accountable.

    I think an even more important question is the question of the video game industry’s relationship with the video game press.

    How much influence does the gaming press have on how games are made?

    Can you really trust the objectivity of a gaming magazine or website that was flown out to Irvine, California, put up in a hotel, fed barbecue and given exclusive access to Blizzard developers?

    Does the gaming media serve the best interests of the advertisers or their viewers/readers?

    At least amateur, unpaid bloggers are in the trenches getting their hands dirty — sometimes doing real reporting and giving unabashed opinions.That is not true of the professional gaming media despite their claims to the contrary.

    We live in an age where the current media establishment is dying before our very eyes. Newspapers, magazines and even TV news networks are starting to fail. People are tired of the lies and the spin.

    The rise of the Internet and of course the bloggers are making an impact that can’t be underestimated. Many big news stories in the past few years have been ignored by the mainstream media and been broken by mere bloggers.

    So yes, perhaps we are making an impact even though it’s hard to quantify just yet.

    • Gordon says:

      I think that’s a very valid point about bias media. Personally, I like blogs because (usually) the opinion of the author is bare and unique and doesn’t have any sort of agenda behind it. I’ve often wondered whether or not sites that our sponsored by games companies have the freedom to write the honest truth.

  15. Rivs says:

    Some blogs are good……Some blogs are bad…..and there’s mine…..the ugly.

    Seriously, I doubt I have any really effect, or sway anyones opinion…if I did RP servers would be closing at a record rate. I view myself as an entertainer, someone to distract you for a few minutes of your life….

    Whether you think I’m the second coming, or the biggest arsehole there is I don’t care….are you not entertained?

  16. Yetian says:

    I only have a small blog in comparison to many of you but I can say that I don’t agree with cuppy’s comment that we are a “tight core of blog reading players”.

    I read this and other blogs on a regular basis, but I also find other by searching for info on google. Most of my traffic in fact comes from people searching for info on Google. Until Gordon here usurped my position, mmo-symposium was high up for Everquest 3 and as a result have 100+ comments covering all kinds of opinions on what such a game should have. Most of those people will have found it by searching for info on google.

    Does the post or any other post on my blog change a game dev’s view on what he/she would do with a game? I doubt it, could a blog post give an MMO dev a moment of inspiration now and again? I’m sure it does.

  17. Isey says:

    I find blogging to be a nice balance to marketing departments and review websites =) Sure, they don’t hit the same readership, but if I’m looking to make a purchase I’ll read the review sites, and the main sites, and then check to see which bloggers are talking about it.

    I just find the blogger opinion to be less filtered.

    The counterpoint to that is that if you read a blog regularly, you really get a feel for their personality and the types of games they enjoy, and their gaming expectations. I know Tesh’s viewpoints on the MMO (as a regular to his blog) and how he feels about MMO’s and the AAA sub model – so I can take his advice under that ‘filter’. I could repeat that statement about the other 10+ blogs I read on a very regular basis – through reading I have a good understanding of their views of the space.

    As an avid blog reader (and off and on again writer) I click links in blog comment sections when I read a comment, and find my way through other interesting and different opinions. Honestly, I find the experience, and myriad of viewpoints, refreshing and enlightening at the same time.

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