Community Shitstorm at the Giant Bomb

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

There’s a troubling PR crisis brewing over at Giant Bomb at the moment, one of my favourite gaming websites.

They’ve just revealed a new subscriber option, where for $5 a month or $50 a year you get access to a series of premium features they’re offering, including stuff like HD video, mobile versions for any websites hosted on Whisky Media, some avatar bling and possibly a live Friday show.

The other thing they’re doing, unfortunately, is splitting the Bombcast (their weekly podcast) into two one-hour portions, with the first half being filled with time-sensitive discussion, while the second half is only accessible a week after broadcast for free members. Premium members get access to both halves of the podcast at the time of release; and hence, they don’t have to wait.

The big sticking point here is that the two-hour podcast has been and currently is free to everyone. Now, some form it is being taken away and held ransom until a week passes.

The real issue, however, is that it was heavily implied, if not outright stated, that features weren’t going to be taken away, only added, and that they don’t want to split the community. The reality is, though, that people are now being asked to pay for a feature that was previously free, and considering how the Bombcast is one of main features of the site, there will be a community divide between those who have listened to it, and so can discuss the content, and those don’t have access and turn up a week late to the party when everybody’s moved one.

In straight forward terms: they made promises and didn’t keep them, and now some parts of the community feel betrayed; hence, shitstorm.

Personally, I think content creators absolutely have the right to charge consumers for what they produce. I’m hovering over the idea of paying for the monthly subscription, myself, since I visit the site an awful lot, value the content and opinions of the creators and want a decent browsing experience while navigating on my smartphone. I also quite like Tested, one of their sister sites, for the same reasons.

No, I think this is more about broken promises rather than straight-up Internet-user entitlement syndrome.

So, what I’m really interesting in is their response to this. They’re going to be doing their Big Live Live Show: Live! sometime this afternoon, where I expect they’ll address some of these concerns. The questions is: how? The very worst thing they could do is go into victimisation mode and start calling people cheapskates. The very best thing they could do is to drop the splitting up of the podcast idea and reduce the subscription (maybe to $3 per month and $30 per year), but I think this is idealistic. What they’re going to do – what I would do – and what they should do is this: listen to the fans, don’t persecute them, respond to their accusations and be as honest as possible why you’re doing this and what the business realities are. Ryan, Jeff and Dave actually did a pretty good job of justifying the changes in a podcast they did very recently.  It’s a good start, but this is a message they’re going to have to continually repeat, and they’re still going to need to listen and respond to the concerns of the community on this if they are to maintain their good guy image.

I will be watching eagerly to see how this all unfolds.

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