I feel like this should be an epic farewell, a culmination of two years of work on the site. But, I’m not good at goodbyes. I usually would prefer to skip them altogether. But an ineptitude at putting into words the culmination of a stage and the transition to a new chapter in my life doesn’t exempt me from at least trying.
Maybe I’ll talk about Nintendo Enthusiast’s history a bit. You know, to distract you from the fact I’m not actually saying a goodbye. But first let me tell you why I’m leaving. After two years of writing about Nintendo and building this community in all my spare time, I feel like I need the breathing room to explore new creative ideas and see where life could take me. Our staff and community has grown so big and the site’s demands are so great that they easily take up any free time I have. Truthfully, I don’t even get time to play video games anymore. I’d like some time to actually play games, and I’d like to start thinking about what new creative endeavors I can get involved in. It’s time for something new for me.
There is one project I’ve already begun to get involved in, which is the Video Game Talent Agency. This is something that deserves an entire post unto itself but it will suffice with this for now. Hollywood has agents. The music industry has agents. The film industry realized the need for agents back in the 1960’s and a monumental shift happened which shifted the power away from the major studios and into the hands of the individuals, the actors. Major studios were still a large force, but the actors had an equal share of the power, and this created new opportunities for everyone.
Independent developers (aka “indies”) are becoming a larger and larger force in the industry and it’s time for the balance in the industry to be shifted. It’s time for smaller studios to become a bigger player and play an even bigger role in the industry. With the Video Game Talent Agency I hope to create a middle-man stage which amplifies the communication process between publisher and developer and is focused on empowering indies, creating connections between talented indie developers and bigger publishers who would like to outsource their own franchises or exclusively publish promising indie games. With the presence of a “matchmaker”, publishers can easily have their specific needs met in regards to connecting with smaller studios, and the independents can have more opportunities for having their projects funded, without having to resort to Kickstarter for each and every project they try to attempt.
As of now, the major publishers (who are rapidly shutting down one after another) have so much control that the developers can’t take creative risks, as the businessmen don’t see a threat to their control. If indies had more options, they’ll have more bargaining power, and will be given more say in how they run their own team. Creative decisions will be made more often in the the developer’s meetings, less so in the businessmen’s meetings. Indies will be able to pick and choose between the offers presented by various publishers and negotiate until they feel comfortable enough to say yes.
And in the long run, publishers may end up gaining as well from this kind of model. The enormous presence and wielding of power from the publishers actually creates more stagnation in the industry at large. The publishers end up spending more and more money on production values as the budget for their AAA products soar ever-higher. Instead they could be focusing on creativity and ingenuity- something the indies are very familiar with. The balance of power between publishers and developers will hopefully create a balance between risk and financial gain, lending to more innovation and creativity.
Although, this idea is still in its infancy and I can’t devote large amounts of time to this yet, I’ve put up a placeholder site for this new organization, the Video Game Talent Agency, at this address: http://www.vgta.co
I’ve been building a database of all the publishers and significant indies in the industry. I currently have recorded over 500 independent studios, with their info, past and future titles, and what platforms they have focused on primarily. If any developer or publisher would like to discuss their needs, what they’re looking for, and what options they are currently exploring, I’m ready to begin consulting with them and making new connections, although it will still be a side project of mine for now. At the moment, I won’t be taking any fee, but a few months into the future I may start taking a 5% commission for each exclusive deal I’m able to broker between a publisher and developer. If you’re interested, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And now, moving on to Nintendo Enthusiast, let me speak about how all this began. As many in this community know, Nintendo Enthusiast began as a response to the massive gaming sites on the internet, and their tendencies to:
- write shallow clickbait “fluff” instead of deep and informative articles,
- focus on controversy, and negativity – the soap opera and drama of the industry- rather than the games themselves,
- place journalists on a higher pedestal than the gamers and readers themselves.
We specifically wanted to allow Nintendo gamers to have a place where they felt they weren’t being talked down to as if they were all kids or frequently attacked by trolls or immature gamers. The goal was to show that you can still be a Nintendo fan and be a mature, intelligent human being with sophisticated tastes and intellectual thought processes. Many of our staff are married with kids. They have real jobs or are finishing up higher education. Nintendo gaming can be a rewarding, inspiring form of entertainment. And a gaming site doesn’t have to be built around a foundation of fluffy writing and controversial headlines.
Most of our staff knew each other for a few years before making this site. We were a very strong, close-knit community on the IGN Boards. Myself and a handful of others had even been together since the early IGN64.com days. By the end of the Wii era, many of us were producing so much content for our community that we wanted to create a home of our own that was run by our own rules.
I got the ball rolling for our community by saying my farewell (just like I am doing today) to the IGN framework that we then called our home. Instead of writing “articles” on the IGN Boards, I set up a blog of my own at menashegamer.wordpress.com and called it The Nintendo Enthusiast.
After a week or two of doing it on my own I opened up the invitation for others in our community to join. I was immediately joined by a few of my closest friends who helped to create interesting and compelling content on a regular basis. With the articles coming out a few times each week, we started to attract a bit of attention. Once those pioneers had joined, even more began to abandon ship at our old haunt and make their way over to TNE (as we still call it.) Over course of the next two years, I doubt there was even a month that went by without massive growth and momentum. It honestly took us by surprise because this was not typical growth for a website. It was propelled by an entire community that had already been established over a decade’s time. It was simply the community deciding to leave the nest and find a new roost to call their home.
By now, most of our original 300-400 member community has signed up on our own personal forums and keep it pretty lively. Many of them have moved on to other things in life and don’t frequent forums as much. Others have started their own endeavors. There has even been death, as one of our closest friends within the community passed on, shortly after joining the site as an editor. [Derek Jasper, may you rest in peace. We are all still left with a void in our hearts from your passing.]
But, there is still a very healthy portion of our old community left, and many new members have joined, sensing the companionship and intelligence. (And fun and very lively debate.) I feel like I’ve done my job. We’ve accomplished what we set out to do. We’ve established a big new home for our community to enjoy and share our lives together (especially our gaming lives.)
And I also feel like I’m going to be leaving the site and community in good hands as I move on to try out new things. This place won’t fall apart with me gone. There’s a strong foundation in place and leadership abounds. We’ve got seven teams on the staff, each with their own leader. And now I’ll take a moment to name the head management of the site, who will be taking over the leadership of the site.
If this site would be compared to a mansion then I’d say there are two wings. The East Wing is the Editorial Staff. And the West Wing is the forums and chat community. In regards to the Editorial Staff, I’m placing Andy Whitefield in charge as Editor-in-Chief. Andy once ran his own Nintendo news site called the Nintendo News Network and as we became closer as friends, he eventually merged his site into Nintendo Enthusiast, becoming the dominant force for the news stream. He also arranged the interviews, many of the site’s features, media/screenshots, and the Facebook page. In the past few months he was the head of his own team, the eight-man news team. In his personal life, he became a successful manager of his own store, and by now, his company ships him off to each of their failing franchises that require a manager to step in temporarily and revive it. He’s a great leader with an insane work ethic. He’s a natural fit for being an Editor-in-Chief.
However, I’d like to create a few deputies who will be at his side in formulating policies, running the day-to-day site, and keep fresh content coming out to our readership.
One deputy-editor-in-chief is Alex Balderas. Alex was there from the beginning of the site and is possibly its most intelligent member. He’s intellectual, thinks out-of-the-box, and is very level-headed. His ideas will hopefully shape new new site features, from a content-perspective and in the structure of this whole community.
Another deputy-editor-in-chief will be Tom Irwin. Tom became our community’s mod while we were all still at IGN. He was known for being a natural communicator, leader, and telling it like it is. He’s able to be tough and enforce the boundaries that keep a community together, while still being universally adored. By now he’s become one of the head mods at IGN and has gained a lot of experience from that. Although his modding responsibilities didn’t allow for him to join Nintendo Enthusiast until more recently, it was always just a matter of time because he had been such a close friend of everyone involved. His experience and natural leadership will keep the community in check.
And the last deputy-editor-in-chief will be Anthony Wright. Anthony is still the Editor-in-Chief of Gaming Enthusiast but GE is getting something of an overhauled redesign, hopefully sometime soon. This gives Anthony more time to help out at Nintendo Enthusiast. Being the Editor-in-Chief at Gaming Enthusiast gave Anthony a lot of experience and it was evident through my time working with him that he’s a real jack-of-all-trades. He’s able to fill any role and use a hundred different skills. He’ll be an asset for the management team and help them to accomplish anything they set their minds to.
Finally, we’ll end off with the community leadership. The team will stay the same, with Alex Balderas leading the two moderators, Superfakerbros and FriedShoes. Matt Costello will also hopefully continue in his adviserial role, consulting with Alex on all major community decisions.
Although I’m leaving, I’ll still pop in to say Hi to everyone, post on the forums, and write guest posts on the site from time to time. But to leave on a high note, let me tell everyone about one last project I’m working on, in conjunction with my new organization, the Video Game Talent Agency.
Together with nearly all the major Nintendo news sites, we will be hopefully collaborating with an indie developer to make a new Wii U game. The indie developer who we’re currently talking with is the highest-profile Nintendo-focused indie developer. You all know them, although I won’t name any names until an official announcement is ready. They’re discussing the game project in their post-E3 managerial meetings, so we’ll have a final decision hopefully pretty soon.
If it works out with them, all the major Nintendo news sites will host a competition asking their readers to submit their most innovative gameplay ideas for the Wii U. When all the submissions have been entered, the indie developer will choose the best ideas and turn them into mini-games, as part of a mini-game compilation. Think how Wii Sports or Nintendo Land showed the world the potential of the Wii U GamePad. But this time it won’t be based on Nintendo’s ideas to reach a mainstream audience, but based on Nintendo fans’ ideas of the coolest ways they can imagine gameplay on the Wii U.
I, personally, am hoping for at least one game that allows you to use the GamePad like a camera in a game like Pokemon Snap, a scuba-diving game (like Endless Ocean, perhaps) where you can look around your environment with your GamePad, and game where two people stand back to back, with one looking at the TV and another looking at the GamePad.
But, I’ll leave the creativity to all of you.. .when the time comes.
For now, though, I leave you all with my best wishes and I hope you’ve enjoyed your time spent with me as I’ve surely loved every moment of the time we spent together. Enjoy gaming, enjoy life, and enjoy Nintendo!