« | Home | »

11 Rules for making a successful gaming website

posted on June 29th, 2006 by the marketeer

This guide will enable you to climb to the top of the internets.

Successful gaming websites don’t make themselves. They are created by webmasters who follow sets of rules posted at other websites. To help you bring your site to the forefront of the internet, here is a list of what must be done.

1 – Make headlines more misleading
A rumor may only be a rumor, but why run the risk of losing hits by clearly marking it as so in a headline? The best aggregator sites understand that when someone clicks on a link to one of their articles and the story turns out to be different than they expected, the reader is thankful that the site has cleared up any misconceptions due to the inaccurate headline. Thus, misleading headlines are a way to engender trust with your readers.

2 – Make headlines more sensational
Sensational headlines are necessary for tricking people into visiting your website. Sites should not rely on writing interesting content or the strength of their writers to attract visitors but rather outlandish article titles that grab a readers attention. “Carmack hates the PS3” is an excellent headline because it is both untrue and sensational. We have a lot to learn from Kotaku, who expertly manage to mix this and the previous rule.

3 – Allow anyone to write for you
Remember that a writer is anyone capable of writing. By demanding only partial literacy from your authors, you can create a massive amount of content in an extremely short period. This will allow you time to give your attention to more pressing matters, like which branch of the armed forces should have a hover ad displayed on the 4th of July. Readers also respond well to articles written by stupid people because, by and large, readers are also stupid. If your site is to allow anyone to submit articles, make sure to allow the feeling of populism and equality to permeate through the whole site by heavily moderating your forums and creating ranks in order to keep people off of certain boards. Nothing hammers in the concept that all of our voices matter like reading “[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]” and “You are not authorized to view topics on this board.

Steven Seagal shot to fame by allowing anyone to write his movies (and by being seen in public with Carrot Top).

4 – Use more links
One of the primary indicators of the success of a website is how many links it has on the main page. If we look at Gamespot’s site, we count about 314 links. This is a good, solid number of links. A further survey reveals that IGN has 333 links on their homepage while Gamespy has a paltry 214. The obvious conclusion any reader will draw is that IGN is the best of these three websites, while the Gamespy site cannot even muster 18 dozen links and is thus far inferior to the other two.

5 – Add more hover ads
Hover ads are those delightful advertisements that hover about a websites actual content. They are usually animated and the better ones follow you as you scroll up and down the page. This type of ad is often said to be annoying, but this is a misnomer. People, especially gamers, enjoy the struggle of closing them by clicking on the tiny “x,” which is often moving. By using enough of these, a site like Gamefaqs has essential made itself as much fun to read as a video game is to play.

6 – Report old news as new
If you run a site that’s primarily a news aggregator, it is easy to let stories slip through the cracks because you have plenty of other things that demand your attention, like what ads to place where. The good news is that readers have extremely short attention spans and memories so stories you thought were missed opportunities are not necessarily so. Reporting news the next day reveals you as behind the times, but wait as little as one more day and suddenly you have a story that most readers won’t remember ever seeing. An example from Evil Avatar.

This is an inspirational picture.

7 – Write shorter articles more frequently
A significant advantage of making an aggregator site is you rarely need to write more than a paragraph or two for each entry. People don’t like to read the same thing for more than six seconds, so not writing full articles matches perfectly with what readers want. Ironically, people do want about three thousand stories to read a day because they are still bored (the last story only took them six seconds to read and they’ve got over seven more hours at work).

One of the biggest mistakes many sites make is to write like the text is free. Typed words may not cost literal dollars and cents, like printed words do, but they cost readers. No one is interested in a two thousand word expose on immersion in video games. Readers want to watch video clips of people playing Super Mario Brothers music on their guitar, and pictures of hand knitted PSP holders. Keep articles short and to the point so that you may get to the next point, and the next, and the next. When it comes to a website, a shotgun is better than a rifle.

8 – Use more ads between pages of articles
When a reader finds himself glued to his monitor and hanging on your every word, nothing perpetuates this mood, this immersion, like placing an ad, and only an ad, on the next page of the article. This is because a full page ad is perfect for building tension and excitement. Readers who always get to the link they clicked on are spoiled readers, and they know this. A spoiled reader will not get as much out of your site and thus it is imperative that you not spoil your readers by not bombarding them with advertisements. Gamepro excels at not spoiling their readers.

8 Comments

  1. Christian said on June 29, 2006:

    Ever since the destruction of Daily Radar in my mid teens, I’ve traveled around to just about every major game site. While usually I’ve always managed to visit them all, there’s always one that I go for the majority of my information, until it starts getting crappy and I move on to another one. I went from a hardcore Gamespot addiction to IGN (I was once an Insider), then to Gamespy for quite some time, and now 1up (who, amazingly, are getting a lot better with their editorials and provide some decent old school features for serious gamers). The only two I’ve visited at a constant frequency for all these years are Game Revolution (since they’re cranky bastards like me) and gamefaqs (because its the fastest way to the Gamespot news ticker). Actually, any site can win me over with a solid news ticker.

    But I digress. While I still visit these sites, I find myself going to each for less time, and stopping only for very specific features or articles. The vast majority of content does absolutely nothing for me. Not only do they all try and cram way too much information onto a page (Gamespot has gone insane with their current layout), but far too much of it is preview content. If I looked at very screen, watched every direct feed movie, and read every developer diary and preview, I’d have no reason to play the game. I’d already know all the important stuff!

    I know most gamers want lots of information all at once, as quickly as possible, but these guys take it a little too far. Its information overload.

    Plus, every so often a really screwball review pops up which makes me question the actual integrity of some of these big time editors (I loved the one 1up writer that went to all these publisher sponsered parties, talked about them in her blog, then proceeded to gush about the games she saw. Wonder why….)

    Conclusion: Support indie game sites. We may not always get it right, but sometimes a longer, more detailed, and most importantly personal opinion from a fellow gamer can often lead to the best insight into a game. There’s a lot of quality stuff out there amidst the 15 year old bloggers and forum fanboys. Plus the more you read (and critique), the better those sites, Videolamer included, can get.

  2. Tan said on August 23, 2007:

    Man, Carrot Top just get’s uglier doesn’t he? Awesome article BTW, always a pleasure. :)

  3. The Songnumbers Team said on March 31, 2009:

    Great info, we DO expect (though) that the ad-supported model WILL work. //keeping our noses down and pushing ahead…
    Sincerely,
    The Songnumbers Team
    PS, we just pushed out BETA 2 of our site!

  4. SAndy said on October 21, 2009:

    this is very helpful I like the idea is good
    helpful is also

  5. Big Game Hunter Cheats said on May 25, 2010:

    I enjoy to play games, but I particularly like to play Big Game Hunter. Desire to find some Big Game Hunter Cheats? Just push my link.

  6. Spyder Mayhem said on May 26, 2010:

    Oh, I’ll push your link. Right over a fucking cliff. And down some stairs. And into a hot bed of coals. And through a window of a skyscraper. And out of an airplane. And into the front of a bus. By the time I’m through, you’ll beg me never to push your link again.

  7. Sammie Cerny said on October 9, 2010:

    Some interesting information on here. Slightly off topic but I am so excited !. I saw Cats The Musical for the first time and the music plus the dancing is outstanding. It is definitely an emotional journey that all the audience gets involved with !. ‘Cats’ will make you laugh and smile and touch certain places in your heart. Everybody left the theater singing, content and uplifted. If you get a chance to go and see ‘Cats’ I really recommend it.

  8. jay said on November 26, 2010:

    Wow, our server host is now spamming the site. Classy, host gator.

Leave a Reply