As anyone reading this almost certainly knows by now, Massively, the best-known of the mass-market MMORPG news sites, will be closing for business next week. As far as can be ascertained this has has little to do with the commercial viability or otherwise of the site itself and even less to do with the current fortunes of the genre.
No, as far as we can tell Massively is just another casualty of the flailing, thrashing death throes of that almost-forgotten internet dinosaur, AOL. In common with a number of the ancient giants that stalked the wires when the web was young - Yahoo comes to mind - the brain seems unaware that the body died long ago.
Massively was not without its flaws: far from it. Its writers were partisan, opinionated and not always on top of their brief. Its perspective was idiosyncratic. Its commenters were frightening. Nevertheless it was a unique and valuable resource for anyone involved in the hobby.
I read Massively every day. As the years wore on I largely gave up on the routine posts designed to stimulate controversy, conversation and page views but I never stopped stopping by for news. There was no better place to test the temperature of the MMO corpus, no livelier water-cooler around which to gather, where gossip could be swapped and shared.
The screenshots in this post are from the current open pre-alpha test of Valliance Online. Were it not for a news squib on Massively I wouldn't know this game existed. Because Massively received and relayed that press release I downloaded the game, made a character and added VO to the long tail of MMOs I've tried and will probably never play in earnest.
That was what Massively did best. Every day they aggregated all the press releases from MMO game-makers around the world and put them in front of us. Where things went from there, well, that was up to us.
I found so many MMOs through Massively, from Realms Online to Otherland. When MMOs I thought had died, like Otherland (yes, again) or Argo came back to life it was through Massively that I learned how exaggerated the reports of their deaths had been. I'd hyperlink those posts as I've done so often but it seems there's no longer any point. In a few days those links will go nowhere.
Massively was a commercially-oriented, professionally-operated website. Its contributors were paid for what they wrote. Nevertheless, it always felt like part of this blogging community. With writers like Syp and Beau on board how could it not?
I won't pretend I enjoyed everything they published. Not even most of it. Some days you could feel the thread wear thin in the weave. All the same I never undervalued the work the team put in.
Massively was a magazine, a daily magazine, retailing 24/7 real-time rolling news when often there was nothing new to sell. They made the best of what they had and I very much doubt any of their critics could have done better or as well.
Farewell Massively. You will be missed. We'll all have to work that much harder now that you're not around.