Over the last few months, our community team has been dropping hints (or, I guess, just saying outright) that we were working on a brand new GameSpot site. Well, the time has come to finally let the cat out of the box that we didn't really put him in so please don't call the SPCA on us or anything, and begin to let you know about some of the changes that we're making.
So close it in bro, 'cause it's about to get real.
A Whole New World
To put things delicately, GameSpot as you know it is getting up there in the years. Sure, we've thrown a fresh coat of paint on it a few times, but inside, it's very much the same it was 15 years ago. Internally, we even use the same content management system that we've had since the beginning, which means that it can often take us longer to publish a story than it takes us to write it. Think about that for a moment. Let it stew. Pretty dumb, right?
So, like Andrew Ryan, we chose to do the impossible and build a brand new GameSpot from scratch. We've spent a lot of time in the last year planning, designing, and working on this, and it's time to start talking about it.
To that end, we're announcing a beta testing program for the new GameSpot. Beta participants will be the first to see what we're working on and be able to provide direct feedback that we will use to help improve our work in the future. This select group will also receive early access to the new site when we launch it in the coming weeks.
The first wave of beta invitations have already been sent out, and we'll be constantly expanding the group over the coming weeks, so keep an eye on your email!
A select few of you have already been hand picked to participate in the first wave of a beta program for the new site. This group will get exclusive first access to see what we're working on and be able to provide direct feedback that we will use to further improve our work.
All Things Must End
Since we're starting from scratch, we have had to make some tough calls as to what features and functionality we're going to carry over, and while I'd love to tell you that ALL OF THE THINGS have made the cut, I just can't do it.
And so with that said, the following features will not be making the transition to the new site:
1) Unions and User Created Boards
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but is not without good reason. Over the years we've had many proposed fixes for Unions, including a 100+ page document that was passed around internally, and the unfortunate reality is that we don't have the time or resources to dedicate to making these sorts of changes happen.
This is especially true when you take into consideration Union usage statistics--on a website that gets well north of 100 million pageviews a month, Unions contribute just over one quarter of one percent of that.
Now, obviously mistakes were made on our part, and the current usage stats are a reflection of that, but at the end of the day we need to make sure that we can properly maintain and support all of our features so we don’t end up with things that are busted and unloved. To that end, we have decided to focus on our core features--the ones the vast majority of you guys depend on--and not to bring over Unions to the new GameSpot.
As for User Created Boards, there's a lot of crossover in terms of functionality between these and Unions, and without the one we won't have the other.
AUGUST 22 UPDATE: A lot of you have expressed disappointment that Unions will be going away (some of you have even signed a petition to keep them around!), and while we totally understand your frustration, we will not be able to keep Unions around.
That said, what we CAN do is offer Union leaders an opportunity to have their Unions converted into standard, public forums on the new site. This would, of course, mean that they lose the ability to control who can post in their forums, but it would ensure that all existing forum threads would stick around, and their communities would continue to live on, albeit in a different format. We'll be finalizing some details on this and reaching out to Union leaders soon.
We also intend to open up a set of brand-new lifestyle forums on popular topics to allow for wider diversity and to create new communities. We'll have more details on this in the future as well.
Back when I first started here nearly seven years ago, downloads were a huge part of GameSpot. Over the years though, this has changed, and file downloads such as demos, patches, mods, and map pack downloads are no longer a focus of what we do, in part due to platforms such as Steam which have made the necessity for such services largely irrelevant. In the new GameSpot, we will not be offering file downloads at all.
This will also apply to videos as we shift to streaming-only video distribution. Again, this is both a reflection of usage stats and how the online world itself has changed as the result of the influence of YouTube, Netflix, and others. Plus, you have to admit that the proliferation of Wi-Fi and mobile web has made the need to download videos to watch them later sorta pointless.
We will still be supporting HD video downloads for our still-active Total Access members until those benefits expire in February 2014.
3) Certain advanced forum settings, such as the ability to set forum topic sort order, posts per page, and custom username colors
I don't really have anything to add here, so have a corgi puppy.
4) Member Levels, Points, and Emblems
As with the rest of GameSpot, we're going to be starting from scratch with member levels, points, and emblems in an entirely new system that unfortunately won't be available for launch.
What this means is that when we make the transition, all of this data will be frozen in place and migrated over for existing members to show off in a "trophy room" in their profile pages. When our new system (which we'll be sharing more details on at a later date) is ready, this data will be used to grant bonuses in much the same way that porting over a save file from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2 worked.
5) Online Indicator for friends
This will be restored post-launch, but it's not something that we'll have right away.
6) Forum Signatures
These aren't being removed, but they will certainly be changing (for the better):
- A maximum of 500 characters will be allowed
- A maximum of one image with a height up to 125px tall will be allowed
- Animated GIFs will no longer be allowed--if one is specified, only the first frame will be displayed
Lastly, everyone will also be able to choose whether or not they see signatures while browsing the forums.
Taking the Show on the Road
Over the coming weeks, we'll be reaching out for your feedback through a variety of channels, including our beta group, more posts like this, and a series of weekly Google Hangout sessions so we can show off bits and pieces of the new site and answer questions, Ask Me Anything-style. Plus, I can promise that they'll be goofy and fun!
GameSpot is changing in a huge way for the better, and we're hoping that you're as excited about it as we are, so stay tuned for more, and prepare your questions for this week's Hangout, which we'll post more details about shortly.