GamingWe are the staff of Giant Bomb, a site about video games, and our decades of video game coverage experience are here to serve you today. Ask Us Anything!
Mar 29th 2017 by jeffgerstmann • 26 Questions • 5567 Points
We’re Jeff Gerstmann, Vinny Caravella, and Dan Ryckert from giantbomb.com, an outfit devoted to covering video games and the culture that surrounds it. Between the three of us we’ve got something like 50 years of combined experience in this field, which is pretty ridiculous when you see it typed out like this.
We run a website and premium content business and can probably speak to some of that as well as whatever questions you might have about video games and the industry that surrounds it. It’s a weird business! Ask away!
EDIT: OK, thanks everybody for all the questions. Sorry we couldn't get to all of them but it's kind of an overwhelming feed of stuff! Am I supposed to... plug stuff here? I keep seeing people plugging movies. You should see Tokyo Drift, it's a fantastic film, I'm proud to have been a part of it by seeing it on opening night and multiple times since then. Oh. Uh... also, go and... subscribe to our YouTube channel? It's youtube.com/giantbomb, OK? We've got some new shirts coming to the store soon and hey, if you like those videos on that there YouTube channel we also have a premium service that gets you EVEN MORE VIDEOS, an ad-free site, you get to watch the Giant Bombcast live, and more? You can see more about that over at https://www.giantbomb.com/upgrade/ if that's your thing. Cool, thanks again y'all!
How much do you blame the switch cartridge tasting epidemic on Forbes 30 Under 30 media luminary Griffin McElroy?
I respect Trolls 2's Griffin McElroy too much to lay any of this nightmare at his feet.
Hey guys, I've been a subscriber since the first BLLSL. I have a couple questions about the business side of Giant Bomb.
1) How are you guys doing? As someone who listens to the podcasts, and watches videos, I have no idea how sustainable Giant Bomb is.
2) How much traffic does the Wiki do, compared to other content?
3) How's it been with CBSi? They appear to be pretty hands-off; is there any nasty behind-the-scenes business?
1) We're doing quite well, actually. Last year was probably our best year to date, business-wise, and we're continuing in that same direction so far this year.
2) Not much. There's an audience that finds the site via searches that put them on the wiki, but the crossover between those people and our content is pretty low. The backend of the wiki is currently being rebuilt and it's my hope that, once we get it back into proper shape, we'll be able to showcase it in some cool ways and have some fun with all that weird data.
3) They mostly stay out of our way. That can cut both ways, depending on what our needs are at any given time, but we do have a level of freedom that we more or less require to do this sort of thing.
With how busy you guys are on different coasts, how much content on the site that you're not directly involved in do you consume? For example, do you listen to each others podcasts?
I try to listen to the Beastcast every week and I see things here and there.
Listening to the Beastcast is weird, though. They keep calling out my name and when I start to respond some other guy starts talking?
How bad was the buckfast hangover in west from the bottles we sent over?
I still have three bottles of Buckfast on my desk and it's like staring down the barrel of a loaded gun every day. Thanks.
Jeff, can you tell us what you held in your hands this past weekend?
A hammer and some nails. I finally hung up my Tokyo Drift poster here at home.
How much do you die on the inside every time you have to answer a question about breaking into the games industry?
No one asks anymore, they're all too busy streaming on Twitch.
What kind of advice could you give someone wanting to start their own podcast?
Be consistent. I can't stand it when my days get over-scheduled, but hitting a consistent schedule with a podcast is still my #1 piece of advice for people looking to get into it.
Pick a day and stick to it.
What was your reaction when Austin told you Vice had approached him to be the head of there gaming section?
I more or less sprung into action to see if we could mount a counteroffer, if only to make sure the decision was a tough one for him.
Ultimately I was happy for him, because getting offered an EIC job is a big deal, especially when he more or less gets to build something new along the way. Those sorts of jobs don't just come along every day and I think he's doing some cool shit with Waypoint that no one else is currently doing.
No, it's a pizza that someone folded in half for easier eating. Probably closer to a taco, really.
Any plans to do any more energy drink taste tests? Also, what were your favorite and least favorite energy drinks?
The energy drink boom feels like it's mostly over, so there are fewer new drinks and flavors popping up at the gas stations I usually stop at between home and work.
Right now I'm mostly a Rockstar guy, which I never expected. But the Pure Zero Punched, Lemonade, and Recovery Lemonade are all pretty solid.
I recently tried some organic energy drink from Whole Foods or Sprouts or something and it tasted like someone crammed an entire butt into a can, then doused said butt in rotten fruit juice.
Do you guys think you will ever stop writing and move all production to video content?
We've toyed with the idea of a news department in the past but it's not really our focus right now. I'll probably always want the ability to write when that's appropriate (and promote the stuff we've written on our homepage and such), but it's never really been our focus.
I have ideas about how I would build a news-focused product and what sort of people you'd need to run that and not just have it be a carbon copy of Kotaku or Polygon or any of the other sites out there hitting the news beat really hard, but... yeah. Not our focus right now, not really sure if the opportunity there is big enough for it to be worth our time.
Would Giantbomb been a completely different thing had patreon existed back when you were let go from gamespot? Jeff, do you think you'd have gone that route back then if it was an option?
I don't know that we would've gone that route, but things were very different when we were building the site back in early 2008. YouTube still had 10 minute limits on video uploads, for example. Hosting a video-oriented website back then meant something very different than it does now.
I think about it like this: if I was building a team right now, the very idea of building a meaningful website would be up in the air. People want (and can get) video wherever they are on a million different devices. The idea of hosting your own dot com domain and trying to drag people over to visit your own little kingdom instead of putting your stuff where the people already are seems crazy nowadays.
I'm surprised no one has come up with a great turnkey solution for Patreon people who need a place to securely host videos for their patrons. Maybe it exists and I just haven't encountered it yet or something, but that seems like it'd be a business to me!
If I was building a site today it'd probably be a bunch of links to all the offsite platforms we use for community, merch, video, audio, and all that stuff. There are plenty of great off-the-shelf solutions for most of that stuff these days.
Why doesn't Giant Bomb move out of San Fran to save money? Yeah, you all are close to devs, but with everything going digital and with the price of flying, is it worth the cost of living in San Fran? After hearing Dan's 2 bedroom apartment was around $2,000 a month, you could rent a full house in the midwest for like $1200 a month. It just seems like that location is a huge bummer to your personal lives, as you all seem to hate the city itself?
Because the company already owns/leases the space we're using. Moving to a new spot would actually cost the company more, overall. So it's not really up to us.
Also, personally, this is where my family is. I would never want to live inside actual San Francisco, but the suburbs around it are fine. For now.
I pay significantly less than Dan does and I have a three-bedroom house. No shared walls, no big city crap. Living around here can be fine, unless you're hellbent on living in SF proper. That's just dumb.
How often are you approached by companies that ask for good reviews in exchange for favors, and who usually offers them?
I've been doing this professionally since 1996 and it's never happened once.
Lately, though, we do get spammy emails from companies that ask if we allow "guest posts," usually because they want to put a bunch of SEO-jacking crap up on the site that links off to whatever casino or porn thing they're pushing.
Giant Bomb has always seemed like the largest games coverage site which stayed away from the hype around up-coming AAA titles; maintaining a partially skeptical, non-assuming position most of the time. Is this just from the nature of the employees, does it stem from your business model or is there an active attempt at having this position?
I think this was something we helped foster back at GameSpot and it's something that naturally carried over. It's easy to see that a publisher's main job is to sell you something, regardless of quality. We're there to kinda sidestep that stuff and try to get down to what these games are really all about.
It's not about being unexcited about upcoming games. It's about maintaining some professional distance from that stuff and not misleading your audience by freaking out over trailers and announcements as if those final products will automatically be amazing.
When you came back to CBSi, how did you picture the collaborations with GameSpot? Is what you've done with them thus far what you envisioned or did you have grander plans (like that release show) that never happened? Do you have plans to do more with them going forward?
I didn't really have any expectations one way or the other on that. It was a weird thing. I think the people who orchestrated the sale (who are long gone now) had some ideas about it might fit, but ultimately we've got different goals and different audiences. What works for that site usually wouldn't work for us and vice versa. Over time, I'd say that we've only gotten further apart on those things. We run a subscription business, for example.
We do stuff together where it makes sense to do so. We share a common publishing platform and product/engineering teams and stuff like that.
What do the Giant Bomb editors think of the future of media news and criticism in a world where most (not specifically the GB audience) people are increasingly allergic to reading large amounts of text (representing a great waste of time on written articles), want shallow product reviews i.e. "buy/rent/avoid" in video rather than in-depth analysis of themes and presentation (So is it a "good" game or not?), and where attention spans are such that no media holds their attention for any significant amount of time; jumping from TV to console game to mobile game to computer game depending on mood, few of them providing the satisfaction those media had in the past?
Bonus Stage 1: What is the end-game for the Giant Bomb wiki? Will it eventually merge with other databases (GameFAQs, etc.) so that release and other data automatically populates, or will it always rely on manual import of information? Any requests/bounties on especially incomplete or empty wiki pages other than Justice Beaver for the SNES?
Bonus Stage 2: What are the rough revenue percentages for Giant Bomb with respect to premium subscriptions, merch, website ads, and Bombcast/Beastcast advertisements? What keeps Giant Bomb afloat the most? The recent podcast ad survey seems like a move to tailor podcast ads to the audience to generate more revenue, what other tailored ad strategies might be explored?
We have metrics that say that people watch a lot of our videos for long periods of time and listen to most, if not all of the podcast when they listen. I think a lot of the attention span stuff is a little off-base and we've pretty much banked on long-form audio and video as our key thing instead of just spitting out a zillion short, SEO-friendly articles and videos and trying to brute force our way into growth.
I'm happy to attract the sort of audience that cares a bit more deeply about this stuff and is willing to invest the time to know more about it (and hopefully have a pretty good time along the way).
I don't know the revenue split off the top of my head but on-site ads aren't really a huge priority. We're about to switch over to using the YouTube video player as the default for non-premium videos and, because we want to not serve ads to our premium members, we've turned off monetization on those YouTube embeds. We'll see how that goes. We hope that people like what they see and watch our stuff wherever they may be, be it on the site, on YouTube, or, increasingly, on any number of different set top boxes. If they like it, hopefully they'll sign up for a premium account someday.
As for the wiki, we have some loose back-end ties to the GameFAQs/GameSpot product database that may make it easier for users to import existing release and credit data from that db down the line. Not sure what form that'll take, we need to talk about it some more. It'd be easy to just hand all of product creation over to them, but I think that'd be kind of a bummer for our existing wiki users since creating a new game page is (for me, anyway) kind of a thrill.
On a BombCast Jeff talked about publishers needing to ask permission to use a quote for an ad. I was wondering if metacritic need the same permission, and why publishers need to ask to use a quote?
Metacritic asked us if we wanted to be listed on Metacritic, but they don't ask about each individual piece of content they link to.
Publishers often want to use our name and excerpts from our coverage in ads or press releases or trailers, and it's proper form for them to ask us if we're OK with that, especially if they're trying to massage a quote from the review to better fit whatever they're trying to promote.
I approach it from a "if we said it, we stand by it" angle and approve just about anything, unless they're misquoting us or taking quotes out of preview coverage and trying to use it in a review-like context. Apparently some publications in some other fields actually charge money for this, which seems kinda sleazy to me.
The people demand a Persona 5 endurance run...MEETINGS BE DAMNED! what say you?
Given the video restrictions around that game right now, I'm really glad that we never once entertained the idea of doing this. The entire game blocks the PS4 screenshot/stream share functionality, it's insane. It's almost like they don't want people playing this one on the internet or something.
Anyway, I never had any real interest in doing this. It was a magical time and a magical place, and attempting to re-create it like this would probably only lead to disappointment on all sides. I'd hate to tarnish the Persona 4 stuff we did along the way.
Hey Jeff. You've been writing about games on the internet for a pretty long time. I think you have an incredible perspective on games/games journalism and you must have an incredible list of stories about your time doing this. My favorite moments from your site usually consist of you guys taking a peak behind the curtain.
Would you ever consider writing a book (or even just documenting this stuff on the website or online somewhere else) that chronicles what you've seen and done during your career?
It's come up here and there. I'd like to do it, but it's not something I'm currently thinking about. I should probably write some stuff down before I start forgetting it, though!
Do you have any links to videos of the band(s) Jeff and/or Alex were in please?
Once when the topic of your website came up, my guild leader in WoW mentioned that he used to be an "HTML monkey" at Gamespot, and that he carpooled with Jeff. He also said that Brad was an intern there at the time. I don't really want to dox him, but does this sound credible, or was my guildy talkin' nonsense?
You're either talking about Jay or your guild leader is a filthy liar!