I Hope Massively Shuts Down

Massively is shutting down — hopefully. [Update: Confirmed it is shutting down.] If I just caught you off-guard then allow me to explain why I won’t be disappointed and even look forward to the day when Massively is gone.

My biggest issue with Massively, and why this is personal, started back when they were still in their infancy. Some of their writing staff (who I will not name, but they know exactly who they are) thought it would be a good idea to post columns and discussion topics taken almost 100% straight from this blog. That’s right, they cut and paste and completely ripped content from me. It took several emails to their managing editor at the time for them to respond with a simple, “I’ve spoken to the writers and they won’t do it again.” I don’t like thieves.

Syncaine, a fellow blogger, often openly criticizes massively for what I consider my second biggest issue: They have ‘mass media’ opinions. In other words, they’re often full of crap and have no idea what they are talking about. The clickbait and deleting topics when they are wrong rather than retracting is one thing. But for the most part, their writers have no experience with the subjects they are writing about, and often I wonder if they even play the games.

Massively is mass media. Game devs love the eyes it brings to their press releases. Massively loves the ad revenue the game devs bring them. It’s a relationship rarely designed to actually benefit the real gamers unless you seek nothing but ‘mostly accurate’ (and oft spun) news. What bothers me most about this is that Massively breeds ‘argumentum ad populum’ or ‘appeal to the masses’. It’s the fallacious argument that just because lots of people believe it then it must be true.

Massively gets attention because it doesn’t question (unless questioning brings more visitors and revenue). Game devs will fly massively ‘reporters’ out to their HQ or give them exclusives because they know that Massively will deliver the message on-point. Think about it: Would you rather have your game seen by 50,000-100,000 people and have the message be the one you crafted or have it seen by 5,000-10,000 people and have the article be from someone who will give an honest opinion? That’s Massively vs. K&G and other blogs or smaller outlets. I do not mean to villainize game devs or Massively for doing this — it’s business. It makes sense. However, as a result, sites like Massively grow to become the aficionados and given incredible amounts of respect for having so much developer interaction. It has always felt like a ruse to me, but that could also be because I wrote for IGN for a few years and I know exactly how that relationship works. That’s why I left and started this blog.

As always, I want to make sure something is made clear. A few of Massively’s past writers had some passion and experience actually playing the game they purported to write about. For example, Karen Bryan did a nice job writing about the family side of gaming, and I know she was always passionate about EQ2. I won’t condemn all of the writers at Massively, but most of them probably haven’t even played more than one MMORPG, if that.

So I picked on Massively a lot. That’s because they’re an easy target and topical. I can think of plenty more sites just like them. They straddle the line between news and opinion, and their opinions are forced to change to align with what will bring more eyes to their news and exclusives.  It’s frustrating to see hundreds of thousands of people turn into sheeple and believe what they read because they saw it on sites like Massively.  That’s why I won’t shed any tears when the big ‘gaming journalism’ sites topple.

  • Your first issue seems petty, those guys made a mistake and when contacted agreed not do do it anymore. Maybe there’s more to it, where this was an ongoing problem for a couple months and that didn’t make it into your post.

    I completely agree with your second bit. Their actual _content_ sucks. And they have no opinions or point of view. And they have no ambition. All that came from AOL, of course, forcing them to post X amount of clickbait daily, but the end result is the site was stinking garbage.

    What’s funny is that WoW Insider is so much worse that it makes Massively look like Rock/Paper/Shotgun.

  • @Rodalpho: Being upset about people stealing content on the internet is not petty. Yes, this was over the course of 2-3 months. I only discovered it after several articles. Since I was not a reader of Massively it took someone else pointing it out to me. Stealing my content and profiting off of it wasn’t cool. Agreed with your analysis of AOL being a big cause & WoW insider.

  • Ahh. If it happened for months that means it was purposeful, not an “oh yeah I read about X recently somewhere, could post about that” bit. Not petty at all, screw those guys.

  • I once found posts from Inventory Full lifted verbatim, pictures and all, and translated into Russian and reposted as original content on some Russian MMO site. At last I think that’s what was going on. Hard to tell – it was all in Russian! I’d completely forgotten about it until I read your Massively story above.

    Massively has plenty of flaws but unless something very similar comes along to replace it, where d’you suggest I get timely and accurate MMO news after they close down? I used to visit a whole load of other supposed MMO news sites but not one of them provides a quarter the number of news stories and the ones they do run seem to be out of date by the time they run them.

    It’s years since I read any of their comment or discussion columns or comment threads and I won’t miss any of that. I do enjoy a couple of the features but it’s the news I will really miss. As an aggregator of MMO company press-releases they are second to none and that’s a function I strongly appreciate and make good use of on a very regular basis.

    If you know any other media entity that offers a comparable service I’d be very pleased to hear of it. And don’t say MMORPG.com! I stopped reading that one long ago because it’s so visually unappealing it makes my eyes hurt.

  • I remember when they stole your idea for an article on MMO music, was pretty blatant. I’m ashamed to say I still visit it now and again but only to monitor for breaking news in MMO land, definitely not for the articles. There aren’t any news sites/blogs I can stomach these days for articles on gaming other than this one. RPS isn’t bad but can be a little pretentious.

  • Not MMO-specific, but Eurogamer and Polygon are excellent. Also I’ve recently come to really enjoy an under the radar blog called Red Door Blue Key. Excellent in-depth articles, and the owner definitely has a point of view.

    http://reddoorbluekey.com/

    As for the MMO press release aggregator… geez, that’s a good point. Would be a good idea for a site, actually. Just post press releases with no commentary needed. I’m sure it’s out there already somewhere, but I looked for a couple minutes and didn’t see any way to create a RSS feedof only gaming-related PR.

  • Second the cause for Polygon. They do great work, even taking time to play the game and not rush out reviews until they have a true opinion on it. Their review of Destiny is case in point. While everyone was claiming Destiny the next coming of console-MMO’s, their 6/10 rating was pretty spot on. Good graphics, solid gameplay, bad match making (better now), and lacking in content.

  • Disliking a site for xyz reason and choosing to avoid it (and even promoting why you’re avoiding it) is much different from outright hoping people are out of a job. Thankfully your opinion in the grand scheme of things counts for very little.

  • Jep, agree with you. I gave up reading massively when random bloggers started writing useless hype articles, basicly just shareing their biased opinion without any facts. Never went back again.

  • I love opinions, and of course unbiased opinions don’t exist. Great writing has a point of view; it makes an argument. It makes you think, and perhaps reconsider your own opinions.

    Massively and particularly WoW Insider didn’t do that. They breathlessly regurgitated press releases, and when forced to write original content, it consisted of poorly researched Q&As, screenshots pulled from submissions, and stupid “why am I reading this crap” like (just pulled at random from page 200) this:

    http://wow.joystiq.com/2014/04/25/breakfast-topic-outside-factors/

  • @Stargrace: I never stated anything remotely close to hoping people are out of a job. That emotional knee-jerk response is a straw man.

    @Bhagpuss: Yeah, the MMO news space is lacking. That’s how Massively was able to rise to the top so quickly. There isn’t a good alternative for news right now.

    @Norfen: Yeah, when they started doing that I stopped my music section because I would have ultimately been accused of copying them. Maybe I’ll start it up again!

  • Sorry Keen, but here’s where I’m done reading your site.

    Saying “I hope Massively shuts down” is the same thing as hoping people are out of work. That’s not a straw man, that’s the actual literal outcome here. Completely classless.

  • I didn’t read Massively much, actually I think I haven’t visited the site for at least a full year or so, but I WILL miss their podcast. Not because it’s always correct and unbiased, but because it’s been one of VERY few MMO and gaming related podcasts worth listening to.
    Syp/Justin Olivetti seems a decent bloke to me.
    Bah, now I will have even longer periods of not having anything to listen to while going to and from work…. 🙁

  • There is zero value in something that people read and enjoy going away with no replacement in sight (now or perhaps ever). Even if you think they did too little to question the information they were reporting (I agree), they were doing you no harm by existing, and their absence will not help an industry that’s not in the greatest of places right now.

    Also, the pro-developer bias was never limited to the AAA marketing machine. Go re-read Massively’s coverage (and your own) of “developer diaries” written by Mark Jacobs and Brad McQuaid as thinly veiled advertisements for their crowdfunding campaigns. If developers who have made real accomplishements want to talk abstract design philosophy over coffee then sign me up. Massively was posting daily updates about games that might be released in several years if the team secured and competently used the funding as take-them-to-the-bank facts and thereby encouraging readers to pledge money to these projects with basically no legally useful recourse if the games do not live up to the promises (funny story, see Warhammer) or never release at all.

  • @Cuppy: That’s your prerogative Cuppy. You can oversimplify my argument if you so desire. In the end, Massively put out a bad product. I have absolutely no desire to see that website remain open. As an entity, I’m glad it is gone.

    Lots of good people work for companies that make horrible products. We want the products to go away and hate on the product, but we don’t hate on the people (unless they are thieves). There IS a difference.

    To be clear, I can empathize for the people there who will suffer as a result of the closure. I don’t know if they made a living by posting news articles (I sure didn’t writing for IGN) but I wish them the best finding a site that will take them and provide them opportunities. Hopefully it’s a step up from Massively.

    @Green Armadillo: There are no good alternatives to Massively, but does there truly need to be one? MMO news aggregators posting slanted information? I don’t think we need it. There are plenty of similar sites that I think do a decent job (albeit they tread dangerous close to Massively at times). Ten Ton Hammer and MMORPG.com are two examples of MMO specialty sites similar enough. And now that Massively is gone, something else will fill the void or those sites will step it up.

  • I should be rejoicing at Massively shutting down. They’ve been our only real competitor in traffic for years at MMORPG.com. We have a new site coming in a few months, one that more closely aligns with the continuous reading style Massively offered. Without its success, I’d never have been able to convince my bosses we needed a new site.

    Keen, you and I go way back man, all the way back to LotRO Vault and the IGN boards. I like you, even though we’ve never actually met.

    But Bree and the other writers there at Massively? They were just people trying to make a living with their passion. It’s not cool to cut them down entirely.

  • @Cuppy I think it is more about the culture of the site and the fact that they did not stamp out the unprofessional antics of some of their writers than it is about wanting people to lose jobs. Hell, the man even says he liked some of them.

  • @Bill: Hey JoBildo 😉 MMORPG.com should be rejoicing. You guys put out a better product, though you should really update the user-friendliness of your site. If you did that I think you’d have one-upped massively a long time ago.

    I have no ill-will toward the people (except the damn thieves), but the institution was 90% crap. When the go-to place is mostly crap, then it IS something that affects everyone else.

    We need something better. Hire the people if you feel bad for them and make MMORPG.com a better place. You’ll have no objection from me until you start putting out the kind of articles we saw there.

    @Nuke: Thank you. You’re saying it better than I can.

  • Question, mmorpg.com has a link to games.com in the footer, and games.com’s footer says it’s owned by AOL. So is mmorpg.com owned by AOL?

    If that’s not the case you should really correct that footer, because it definitely reads that way.

  • Nope, just a content sharing plan that never really went anywhere. That footer will be updated with the new site.

    Maybe before if the owners will OK it.

    @Keen: Gotcha. Just came off more mean-spirited than I think you intended. Hence the kerfuffle.

  • @Bill: New MMORPG.com site you say? I’ll be a reader again for sure. Hopefully you guys emphasize actually commentary and fill the void of news without slanting it for dev interaction.

  • Just want to second Keen in that usability point on mmorpg.com, like the site a lot but it’s a mess to navigate.

  • If you were glad Massively was shutting down because you thought it was crap, that would be an attitude I would disapprove of.

    But being glad they’re shutting down due to them plagiarizing your work for profit is a perfectly reasonable grudge to hold, I say.

    I’m sad to see them go because they were my #1 source for news on “games I’m not currently playing”. Will need to find an alternative.. maybe forcing myself to navigate through the hideous dog’s breakfast of layout that mmorpg.com vomits onto the screen, I think there’s some good content in there.

  • @Carson: The biggest reason I dislike Massively has always been their plagiarism. That’s 75%. From the moment they stole my work I have held a grudge. The only thing I have here is my writing — it’s mine. It might be horribly written, but it’s mine. The other 25% are the antics they used. I second the MMORPG.com layout. But Bill above just mentioned a new site… so maybe there’s hope.

  • I honestly don’t even know who/what Massively is. And I’m thinking that is a good thing from this article.

    I’m assuming I am in a minority though, as I would label myself an avid PC gamer for the past decades.

  • Speaking ill of the recently deceased has brought you a lot of ire in these comments, Keen, but I agree for the most part. Generally terrible, shallow articles. But I did visit it daily just to keep in the loop of new MMO’s and expansion announcements, so I’m not really sure where to go for that now.

  • I’m glad to see that someone pointed out what “Massively Bias” was.
    I won’t shed a tear for them neither. They deleted post from commenters that were just giving their opinions.
    Me being one of them, I called them out on them using click bait articles that were just plain dumb, and that got deleted, and I never insulted anyone on the staff.

    And for them to say that they weren’t biased was a joke, some of the writers went to work for the developers
    that they covered. Rubi Bayer was one of those and she got a job with Arenanet as a Social Media Coordinator.
    It was so blatantly out in the open that they still had the nerve to call themselves non-bias. I don’t have a problem if a writer gets a job with a publisher or developer but they should just come out a say it or not write
    about them.

    One writer Elliot Lefebvre “the nut job” posting opinions as though he were the grand master of game development writing about the character creator in Wildstar that the boobs on the female Avatars were to big. And they needed to reduce their size. As though they wasn’t enough problems that the game had already.
    And the hilarious part of it is that Carbine Studios actually complied with the request.

    For me, Massively was childish and amateurish.

  • I wasn’t a Joystiq reader. The commentary lacked compared to sites I prefer like Shacknews. WoW insider was decent for the two years I visited regularly but once again it overall lacked compared to sites like mmo champion.

    The whole network was the McDonalds of “enthusiast blogging” or whatever they called it. It just wasn’t very good. It was popular, though.

  • Keen, I understand your annoyance at someone plagiarising your articles. And I can’t say I’ll miss Joystiq or WoW Insider much. But I fail to see how Massively shutting down is in any way a good thing for anyone.

    For me, Massively was the only large MMO site worth reading. I haven’t found any worthwhile alternatives. The only generally acknowledged contender, MMORPG.com, in it’s current state, isn’t worth my time – few of their articles are interesting, their layout is terrible, and their forums are a cesspit.

    Smaller scale blogs like this one don’t have enough content to keep me interested, and are highly biased towards certain types of games. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I also need a broader “McDonalds” (but still MMO-focussed) site to find out about games and issues that I wouldn’t normally pay attention to.

    If nothing decent comes along to replace Massively, people like me will probably just pay less attention to MMOs, leading to further decline of the industry. How is that a good thing?

  • I’ll miss Massively because I learned about many games there that I wouldn’t have learned about otherwise.

    I liked reading sandbox fan Jef Reahard & The Game Archaeologist column there.

    I hadn’t heard about the early plagiarism problem. That’s not good.

  • I will miss Massively. I did not check it for any complex or thoughtful articles. I wanted it for a quick reference on news releases on games I was not playing. I stopped checking mmorpg.com because of the negativity of the reader posts there. Every game was failing and the genre is dead was every forum post.

    While stealing your content is awful, this comes across as you bashing other media. Similar to your post about streamers. Sorry for the criticism as this is one of the few sites I check almost every day but both posts just had the wrong tone for me.

  • @Fuzzy something else WILL come along. Massively will be missed by most, as evident in the comments here, for the news headlines. The content was crap but it was a central location for news. There WILL be another news site. A vacancy has opened. It’s a profitable venture, too.

    @Topauz: the tone is critical. I have no love for streamers who manipulate the system with antics and I have no love for big media’s antics either. i don’t think its “bashing” to give the reasons I did. It’s not as though I said, “massively sucks good riddance!” I said they stole my content for months (and still did occasionally) and were a detriment to mainstream thought because of their lack of experience and illegitimatey attributed aficionado status. Most of their content was pretty crappy, but that represents only a portion of my position as stated in my original blog post.

  • I must say, i only read Massively for the user comments (which illustrates the corporate problem Massively had with their content) . This is something MMORPG.com had a very nice section: forums ; you can find alot of user oppinions on anything, in fact, that’s the main section of MMORPG.com i tend to visit. I just wish they could update their forum tech to something that works with mobile apps like Tapatalk and such , i guess that goes for most of their site.

  • If MMORPG.com would update their website out of the stoneage they would have a fairly good site. I agree, the forums (at least at one point) are a good place for discussion that doesn’t resemble Massively’s comment section.

  • Keen, I can’t find any info anywhere on the Massively plagiarism you were talking about. Can you link to it?

  • @Paganrites: Massively was great for devs like Mark and his team. It was a platform for exposure. It was as close to free exposure to tens/hundreds of thousands of a captive audience as you can get. There will never be any question of that, nor will there ever be any question that they were a very convenient news aggragator for the MMORPG genre.

    @pfft: If you can find deleted posts let me know. That was a major criticism from most people who aren’t game devs or people on the bandwagon praise-train. Massively deletes things, especially when the content ends up being lifted from its original source or completely inaccurate.

  • Keen, I mean I can’t find any mention of the incident anywhere online. Interested to know what exactly they stole, which writer was it, when was it etc? Can you link me to any posts about it, or do you have evidence to show?

    Also, not to defend any alleged plagiarism but wouldn’t it be pretty standard procedure for a site to delete a post and punish its writer internally if there’s credible evidence of plagiarism? An apology could be treated as admission of legal responsibility or negligence. Doubt a corporation like AOL would let them issue one even if the writers wanted to, not sure we can hold that against the site or its editors.

  • @Pfft: They stole some of my game design commentary posts especially where I would ask questions that would start thought provoking discussion. I believe they did so to generate discussion on their site when it was new(er) and they were trying to increase comment traffic. They continued to lift ideas and turn some of them into regular features (the music one, for example, was mentioned above). I never called them out on it publicly. I waited until they one day shut down. As for punishing the writer… one writer remained there even until today. So I don’t know what their policy is on that stuff but it wasn’t as harsh as I would have been. I’m not going to name people publicly.

  • Right, but again all we have is your word on this and there doesn’t appear to be anything about it online. If they stole your content and reprinted it, there’s got to be some evidence and it’s a pretty serious accusation to make without it. You’ve also got to see how dodgy it looks to an outside observer when you say you waited until now to call them out on it and claim that all the evidence was secretly deleted.

    If this is about things like them writing about MMO music or asking the same questions as you did to start discussions, I seriously don’t see how that’s plagiarism. The entire global blogging community works by reading each other and sharing ideas, writing about the same topics etc, especially in MMO communities. The ideas for articles aren’t somebody’s personal private property and they sure aren’t content, it’s what you actually write that’s your content. If someone steals the end product of your hard work and reprints it or rewrites the exact same points in their own words, then it’s blatant plagiarism and you have clear evidence of it. But if they adopt an idea you had and put in the work to develop it into content, I can’t see how there’s anything wrong with that.

  • @pfft: Literal word for word cut and paste down to my typos. That was my biggest issue. That is the plagiarism I speak about. Idea theft is another thing, but prevalent. Like the other bloggers who were victimized here, I won’t name names. I won’t link to which articles. If that means you don’t believe me, I’m okay with that. I’ve never written anything on this blog to be believed by others. That’s not a prerequisite for me to write my thoughts or to care. I write what I want to write, and if I write about why Massively’s demise is of absolutely no consequence to me and why I’m even glad to see it happen because of the type of institution they were then that’s what I’ll do regardless of whether or not people believe me.

  • I’m going to close the comments in this post so that I no longer have to monitor the comments for people who fail to read my posts and subsequent comments.

    In summary:

    • Massively is gone. In many ways I’m happy. Why? Here’s why…
    • Massively stole content and ideas from me and others in the past.
    • Massively writers were mostly incompetent with almost no MMO experience at all. Not all of them. Most. There were great contributors (most left some time ago).
    • McNews Sites like this serve little purpose but news aggregation. Massively will be missed for that.
    • No, I’m not glad people are out of a job. Learn to read and check your emotion at the door.
    • Devs loved Massively because it was cheap exposure and Massively was on point.
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