Hello everyone. Before I fill you in on everything that’s been going on with Gamer Horizon over the past year and what we’re working on for the future, I just want to personally thank you for your support. A website is nothing without its readers, and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on our articles and other content. That keeps us going. Thank you.
I can’t talk much about Gamer Horizon as it existed before I joined, so I’ll describe my experience working with Alex and the rest of the crew since August of 2012. That was actually a few months prior to the relaunch of Gamer Horizon in January of 2013. Before that, we were working on a little site called Those Geeks You Know. Back then, my head was filled with ambitious plans to launch my career as a writer. I was sure that with enough hard work, we could create a professional website that could compete with the big guys, and that our site would become profitable. I dreamed of it becoming a single source of income that could support a modest lifestyle for myself and everyone else involved. Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen.
Over the years, I, alongside Alex, Ted, Chris, Sean, Anthony, Miguel and Justin, have poured thousands of hours into making Gamer Horizon was it is today, and creating the best content we could come up with. We had quite a bit of success early on, when Google was on our side. We could post an article and spend the next few hours casually watching the numbers, happy that anyone was reading our writing. To expand our audience, we each took responsibility for posting our content on to social networks and aggregators, and quickly, our numbers got better; people started commenting. It was a lot of fun. It still wasn’t making any money, but at least Gamer Horizon was making a name for itself, and we were enjoying ourselves.
The small bubble we had burst rather quickly. First, Google, for reasons I am still unclear about, changed its mind about us, and the traffic they sent us was reduced by 95% or more, despite our best efforts to carefully prepare each article with Search Engine Optimization. Then a couple of our accounts got banned from certain websites where we were sharing our content. I suppose we should have expected this, but nevertheless, it came as a blow when we faced the fact that we would be unable to manually promote our content in that way. When things were good in the first half of 2013, we were getting thousands of visitors every week, but as a result of what I just described, our overall traffic dropped by 90%, and never bounced back.
Nevertheless, we continued to work hard. Due to our success in the first half of the year, our applications for E3 2013 were accepted. We attended, and though our team was small, we produced over 50 pieces of content describing the games and the events of the show. I am very proud of the entire Gamer Horizon crew for what we accomplished, and I am glad I was able to participate in that event. Unfortunately, of those 50 pieces of content, only one or two reached any sort of significant audience. The vast majority of them simply were not seen or read.
We went back to the drawing board. We bounced ideas around for ways to make the site more appealing and more engaging to encourage repeat visitors. Alex worked meticulously behind the scenes to make Gamer Horizon appear professional, and to make navigating it easy and intuitive. We created weekly features like What’s Up Weekend, The Top 5, and a variety of podcasts. And at the end of 2013, we did two massive features: The Top Games of the Year 2013 and The Top Games of the Generation. Though we were supposedly on vacation, we ended up spending most of December and early January working on this stuff. The end result was a lot of content, but the same trickle of traffic as before.
2014 has been rough. Our morale as a team had been weakening steadily as our hard work continued to go unrewarded, and to make matters worse, we started fighting amongst ourselves. We had different, conflicting ideas of what we wanted to do with the site and what we expected from one another. As we started arguing about those things, it became clear that we had some compatibility issues as well. The situation was volatile to say the least, and though I won’t go into details, this eventually led to both Chris and Sean discontinuing their work for Gamer Horizon.
That reduced our number of major content producers from 5 to 3, plus some occasional contributions from Miguel. Alex, Ted and I continued to work on the site for the next several months. We also brought Anthony back in and convinced Justin to post some of his content on the site as well. Alex in particular tried hard to reinvigorate Gamer Horizon, posting more content in the last couple months than the rest of us combined. Due to a combination of personal matters and low morale, the rest of the staff, myself included, simply were not delivering. Finally, Alex decided to sign off of Gamer Horizon and to work on a new project. He departed with no hard feelings, and we wish him nothing but the best, and plenty of success.
That brings us to the state of Gamer Horizon today. To be perfectly honest, things can’t continue the way they were before. We can’t maintain this delusion that we can compete with the big websites, or that we will ever make money doing this. I sometimes wonder if it was that ambition that held us back all along. Though we would claim that were doing this for fun just as much as anything else, we still treated Gamer Horizon like a business. We expected a certain amount of weekly content from each of our contributors and a certain level of quality. And because of that, producing content started to feel like a job instead of a hobby. And when you do a job, you expect to get paid. Well, here’s the truth. For all our thousands of hours of work, Gamer Horizon has produced less than $100 a year, which has not even covered the costs of hosting. I suppose we all have a portfolio of writing to show for our years of hard work, but in all that time, I have been paid exactly $20 and treated to lunch a couple of times.
But even more important than the money issue was the idea that Gamer Horizon had to be a professional video game website. Alex put countless hours into making the site visually professional, and he and the rest of us spent a lot of time ironing out the kinks in our content before releasing it to the public. We set rules, standards, and regulations. At one point we had a document of guidelines with about a hundred points on it! Every post had to conform before it would be approved; every post had to be reviewed and cleaned up; and when all was said and done, every post took ages to create, publish and promote. Unfortunately, none of that ever made much of a difference in terms of traffic. Despite having over 1200 posts on our site, we are currently averaging only 150 hits a day.
Really, it’s not that surprising. Our efforts to promote our content dwindled with our morale, but beyond that, the state of gaming journalism has changed. It seems that written content is rapidly losing popularity and that video content is the new frontier. There’s no money to be made as a writer in this business unless you’re one of the fortunate few that gets hired by the big sites, and even then you’re lucky to get $20 for an article that you spend 8 hours writing. But if you build a following on Twitch or produce a series of videos on Youtube, you might have a shot.
In any case, Gamer Horizon as a business has been a colossal failure. But beyond that is something even more important. Believe it or not, despite all of this talk of ambition and income, there’s another reason we write for Gamer Horizon: we love video games and we enjoy writing! At first, that was what it was all about, but somehow over the years, that turned from an absolute truth into an afterthought. The fun was gone, and worse, it affected our enjoyment of gaming as a whole. Well, that’s about to change.
As of now, Gamer Horizon will no longer be treated like a business. Our writers will no longer have any expectations set upon them–short of a certain level of grammatical consistency anyway–any they will be able to choose when and what to write, or when not to produce anything at all. This could mean weeks without content before a sudden burst of inspiration, and will almost certainly result in less content on the site overall. The front page has been simplified to reflect this. But at least the content that we produce will come from a place of passion and heart, from our love of gaming and writing. My hope is that this content will be more meaningful, both to readers and to ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether or not Gamer Horizon makes another dime. What does matter is that we enjoy this hobby of ours and that Gamer Horizon acts as a tool to express our feelings and opinions about that hobby.
Our team now is very small. In fact, at the moment, it is just Ted and I. Our hope is to rebuild the crew with passionate gamers and writers who simply want a medium for their creativity. We want to make Gamer Horizon all about our love of the hobby and the fun of gaming, without the baggage of attempting to create a profitable business. Things may be slow around here while we get the ball rolling again, so I want to thank you again for sticking with us over the years and through this transitional period into the future.
I also want to mention that we do intend on pursuing video content. Ted will be streaming on Twitch, and I intend to do so as well once it becomes feasible (I have some personal matters to deal with in the coming months, but my hope is to start streaming in early 2015). Hopefully, as we expand our team, we will be able to provide you not only with streaming, but with some produced content as well. In either case, it will be fun.
And in the immediate future, we have IndieCade! Ted and I will both be attending this weekend, so look forward to some coverage of the latest Indie titles next week.
So, there you have it! Though it’s just Ted and I at the moment, Gamer Horizon will remain active, not as a business, but as a place for all of us to just enjoy the fun of gaming. I hope you enjoy this new direction, and thank you again for your support. I also want to thank Alex for creating this website to begin with. It may have been a bumpy road, but I still enjoyed the journey, and I’m happy to be able to keep it going.