Friday, May 4, 2012

Burn Jita Coverage And An Interview With Massively's Shawn Schuster

On Monday I intended to publish a post about the mainstream gaming media's coverage of the Burn Jita event in Eve Online that occurred last weekend.  I was curious about what type of cookie-cutter coverage I would find about this event.  I found some of the coverage interesting.

Wesley Yin-Poole, Eurogamer: CCP: players' attempt to destroy Eve Online economy is "f***ing brilliant".  The article contains quotes from Eve's Senior Producer John Lander (CCP Unifex) and lead game designer Kristoffer Touborg (CCP Soundwave).

Josh Augustine, PC Gamer:  Nowhere is safe in EVE Online as Goonswarm suicide-bombs galactic trade hub.   A game journalist who used the connections he made at Fanfest to score interviews with John Zastrow, CSM 3 member and Alliance Tournament VIII commentator, and Goonswarm fleet commander Lazarus Telraven.  The last I heard Josh was on Twitter looking for ganking victims to do a follow-up story.  CCP's and Sony's efforts at flying in journalists to attend Fanfest paying off?  I don't know about that, but this was the best article I read about the Burn Jita event.

Erik Kain, Forbes:  DUST 514 Is A New Kind Of Shooter - An Interview With CCP Games CEO Hilmar P├ętursson.  Before the interview in which Hilmar talked about last year's Summer of Rage and the importance of the Council of Stellar Management as well as DUST 514, Erik included a reference to Burn Jita and a link to the Eurogamer article.  This happened in a mainstream media outlet!

Jef Reahard, Massively: CCP analyzes EVE's Jita player event.  A look at the CCP dev blog summarizing what happened in Jita from CCP's perspective.  This article appeared on Wednesday.  Wednesday?

The reason I found the Massively coverage interesting is that, unlike most sites and even Forbes, Massively offered no coverage of the event over the weekend or even the days preceeding the event, choosing instead to focus on Escalation and the CSM.  I immediately thought up a long list of possible reasons why Massively didn't cover the event over the weekend.  But instead of speculating, I decided to live up to the name of the blog and sent in some questions to Massively.  Massively's Editor-In-Chief Shawn Schuster was nice enough to respond.  I say nice enough to respond because I tried to cover some of the conspiracy theories going through my head and he answered anyway.

The Nosy Gamer:  Is there a change in policy about what Massively will cover in Eve Online?  If so, why?

Shawn Schuster:  "Nope, not at all. We're a website about the most interesting MMO news we can find, and this very often includes EVE Online. We cover the game when it has major updates, press releases from CCP, or simply human interest stories. In addition, we have a weekly column dedicated to the game which is actually our longest-running column to date."

The Nosy Gamer:  In the past, Massively covered the Hulkageddon in-game events in which players held a competition to see who could destroy the most ships.  The latest event began on Sunday, yet this time I see no coverage.  Is it because this time Goonswarm is backing the event?

Shawn Schuster:  "The Goonswarm has no influence over what we do or don't write on Massively. I imagine our writers simply felt that this event wasn't interesting enough to write about as a community event. We don't write about every single community event in every MMO. I don't force our writers to write about anything that they don't know or care about, so if a bit of news isn't interesting to any of our writers, it won't be covered. That's exactly why I don't consider Massively's staff to be a collection of journalists, but rather a collection of MMO enthusiasts who don't just regurgitate every press release that comes across their inbox."

The Nosy Gamer:  In a recent appearance on Eve Radio, Brendan Drain stated that up until recently, Eve Online articles drew the most traffic to Massively.  With the introduction of games like The Old Republic, Tera and the Guild Wars 2 beta, are there less resources available to write about Eve?  Is coverage of games based on which will bring in the most traffic?

Shawn Schuster:  "Brendan's appearance on EVE Radio was not to be taken in any sort of official capacity. He cannot see traffic numbers on any articles or news posts aside from his own, so it's literally impossible for him to know those figures.

"With new MMOs releasing just about every month, it's inevitable that our attention will be drawn to the new games, but EVE Online is celebrating its ninth year and we're still talking about it on the site much more than any other MMO close to that age. We have several EVE players on staff who recognize the game's interest and level of fun, so we laugh at the recent attempts to convince EVE players that "Massively hates EVE Online." That's ironically untrue.

"Also, our coverage isn't based on traffic numbers as we don't get paid per hit, as many other gaming sites do. We want to write about what interests us the most, and what will interest our readers. Traffic does help us gauge reader interest, but we're not driven by traffic. If we were, we would talk more about games with higher subscription rates (World of Warcraft) or post pictures of half-naked women as header images for every post. That's the easy way to get traffic and that method has helped a site or two rise to the top. We do just fine by writing about what interests us."

The Nosy Gamer:  I've noticed that the comments for stories about Eve Online can get quite lively and heated.  Does the Massively staff have to spend more time moderating comments for those stories than for others?

Shawn Schuster:  "All of our posts can get quite heated in the comment section. We only moderate when the comments break our code of conduct and are reported by other readers. EVE Online's post comments are far from the worst as that's usually reserved for new or upcoming games and the hype that surrounds them. The passion for those newer games is quite high."

The Nosy Gamer:  Ten Ton Hammer stated it is conducting a review of those who it considers to be objective and factual first tier news sources in association with the entire PanelGate fiasco at this year's CCP Fanfest.  Has Massively been contacted by Ten Ton Hammer about this?

Shawn Schuster:  "No, we haven't, but it's important to point out that The Mittani writes for Ten Ton Hammer, so I don't see how that can be an objective perspective."

As I read Shawn's answers and exchanged emails with him, I came up with three reasons that I think explain why we saw no coverage of the antics occurring over the weekend in Eve.  The first is the timing of the event.  The person on the Massively staff who could have done the best job with a write-up is Brendon Drain in his Eve Evolved column.  But Massively has a rule that all articles must be submitted by noon Eastern time the day before publication.  Writing a column like Brendon's about an event like Burn Jita that was still ongoing probably isn't a smart move.  I know I wouldn't try it.

What about the other writers on staff?  That brings me to reason 2; a shift in emphasis on Eve news.  While Shawn stated that there is no change in the editorial policy on what Eve news is covered, he also gives his staff wide lattitude in what it deems the most newsworthy.  For example, on the day Burn Jita began, Matt Daniel wrote about the Council of Stellar Management instead of the ganking in Eve's major trade hub.  Which one is more important to the future of the game, especially with CCP stating beforehand that they would not interfere with Goonswarm's plans?  Instead of a slight to Eve, is Massively showing respect to the emerging power of the CSM?  That would definitely be a change in any MMORPG site's coverage of Eve.

The final reason is probably the most important reason of all.  If The Mittani and the rest of the CFC wanted widespread attention, they chose one of the worst weekends to attack Jita.  Gamers love shiny new games and last week featured a lot of shiny.  Fans of Guild Wars have waited years for a sequel and last weekend was the first open beta weekend for Guild Wars 2.  To give an idea of the interest, ArenaNet actually had to stop selling pre-orders of the game in order to keep the load on the servers down to a somewhat manageable level.  Looking at the Xfire community numbers shows that players signed up with Xfire played 55% more hours in the GW2 beta than they did playing Eve Online on Sunday.  Add in the interest in GW2 among the Massively staff and the launch of Tera and Goons being Goons doesn't rank all that high in importance unless you are highly invested in New Eden. 

Having given what I think is a reasonable explanation of Massively's lack of coverage of Burn Jita, I'm still a bit surprised not to have seen at least one article last week, even if it was only announcing that the event began 24 hours early.  I believe that CCP and Sony's partnership in the launching and running of DUST 514 is one of the most important stories in the MMORPG world in 2012.  The fact that CCP was able to allow their players in Eve to continue doing outrageous things in the sandbox is a hopeful indication that New Eden will remain the same place Eve players love after the DUST mercs join in the fun.  That a site as significant as Massively chose not to cover the event until days after the fact is disappointing.

However, I am not going to jump up and down and say that the folks over at Massively are horrible because I disagree about story selection.  One of my biggest complaints about the mainstream gaming media is the cut-and-paste pack journalism that frequently occurs.  Especially when the cutting and pasting is done really badly.  I'd rather a site not cover a story at all if it intends to just mail a story in because every other site is covering something.  The one thing that happened with the Burn Jita coverage is that Massively definitely marched to the sound of their own drummer.

3 comments:

  1. If Goons are the future of Eve then the game will not be on the top list of any official gaming site because of that. Any negative publicity that could be met with legal retaliation and personal attacks is not worth the husle. Hopefully CCP will recognise this and let the Goons destory themselves like they did at Fanfest.

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  2. I had found it highly unusual that there was no mention of the events at all on Massively when everyone was covering it elsewhere. Even after the event I thought it was quite odd nothing was even mentioned.

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  3. So essentially their Eve columnists either didn't know or didn't care about the event.

    /facepalm.

    I can see that you're trying to be objective and fair but it's as if the BBC had refused to cover last August's London riots because other stories were more interesting.

    Even as a carebear the event had a big impact on me (not least in that I didn't undock my freighter for a week).

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