#62: Community spirit

Yesterday MOBA Group, a Swedish company I have never heard of, announced the $4.5 million acquisition of the enormously popular gaming forum ResetEra. Hit Points has covered at length the game industry’s ongoing obsession with consolidation. There is so much money flying around at the moment that it is hard to discern the good business from the bad. I am not sure which to file this under, either. Honestly I find the whole thing really weird. 

I suppose, on paper, it makes sense. MOBA Group is in the business of buying gaming communities and selling advertising around them, and ResetEra is a big ol’ community. And $4.5 million for a company that, last year, made $700,000 in revenue, at a margin of 80 per cent, is hardly an overpayment — particularly since we can assume the new owners will immediately set about renegotiating ResetEra’s existing ads deals. 

But, look. What are they actually buying here? There is no product changing hands beyond a website, but it is not the website that MOBA Group has paid $4.5 million for. The amorphous blob of nerds and ne’er-do-wells that comprises an online community is by its very definition organic, ever-changing and fundamentally unownable. There is nothing to stop the entire userbase upping sticks and buggering off somewhere else. This is ResetEra’s literal origin story! It was formed from a mass exodus from NeoGAF, which was the biggest gaming forum on the internet until its owner was accused of sexual harrassment in 2017. Half the mods quit in protest, users left in droves, and ResetEra was established to give them all a home. Given the reaction to yesterday’s news, it seems another relocation may not be far away.

In fact, it’s sort of already happening, which makes the deal seem even riskier. Several ResetEra subcommunities — some based around games and the industry, others minority groups — have either flounced or been forced off the forum in recent times, setting up their own little splinter sites. More seem bound to follow. Politically, ResetEra skews sharply progressive, and the initial reaction to capitalism moving in on their turf has been, shall we say, mixed. So too the response to the community’s collective realisation that the site’s sole proprietor was pulling down $700k a year while the moderator team toiled away on the front lines as unpaid volunteers.

The usual reason for buying a company is the belief that you can make it better, bigger, more profitable, and this is why buying a forum in Space Year 2021 seems so thoroughly odd. How can ResetEra really grow from here? By this point, everyone has their online home, whether that’s a forum or a social network or something else. And they only move when they have to. I see few winners here. The fella that’s sold a website for $4.5 million, sure. The mods, assuming they leverage the grimy optics of a multimillion-dollar business using unpaid workers to finally get themselves a wage. And whoever sets up the new forum that everyone runs off to at the first sign of trouble. Beyond that? Only losers, as far as the eye can see. There’s an obvious joke about gaming forums in there, but I am far too classy to make it. 


MORE!

  • Spanish studio MercurySteam is the latest to draw ire for leaving developers out of a game’s credits. The studio says its policy is to only credit those who were employed for over 25% of a game’s development, which in Metroid Dread’s case is about a year. This is a long-running, immensely important and needlessly commonplace issue that, as this tweet sagely observes, will not be fixed without an enforceable ruling of some kind. 

  • HTC has announced a new all-in-one VR headset, Vive Flow. Looks like it’s optimised for comfort — it weighs just 189g, compared to Quest 2’s 532g — which implies it’s not exactly a powerhouse. Looks funny though, so there’s that.

  • Publisher Raw Fury has inked a deal with dj2 Entertainment for TV and movie adaptations of the former’s games. The first three confirmed titles are Sable, Night Call and Mosaic.

  • Call Of Duty studio Sledgehammer Games has opened a UK studio in sunny Guildford. Well done them. 

  • SpringHill, a ‘content and consumer product company’ founded by NBA superstar LeBron James, has raised a bunch of money, some of which has come from Epic Games. SpringHill will use the Fortnite maker’s investment to “bring unique content to the metaverse”. Suuuure.

  • Nintendo revealed a new Animal Crossing: New Horizons expansion today, and while purchasable on its own for $24.99, the company is also bundling it with the forthcoming Expansion Pass for the Switch Online service. However, the small print makes it sound like a freebie. A base Switch Online sub costs $19.99 a year; the new version with the expansion pack will cost $49.99. That is quite a premium for a handful of N64 and Mega Drive games.

  • Some weird stuff went down this week involving Genshin Impact and Elon Musk, two things whose enduring popularity truly baffles me.


You’re all caught up. I must apologise for the non-appearance of the first subscriber-exclusive edition, which I’d hoped to send out this week. My plan was for these to be short, snappy, digestible things; then I did an interview that ran for over two hours and was full of gold, and I’ve been wrestling with how, or even whether, to distill it down into something shorter. I just ran out of time. I will crack it next week, I promise. In the meantime, have an excellent weekend! I shall see you on the other side.

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