The Growing Divide in World of Warcraft Websites

There are many websites out there covering various aspects of the game, from general news to databases to focused subjects like fishing or pets. Over the years, most sites have interacted in some form or another with the database sites, most notably being WoWDB and Wowhead which are part of the Curse and ZAM networks, respectively.

I’ve always preferred using Wowhead, but I use both databases on a regular basis to check spell details, quest information, etc. I’ve even installed the Wowhead tooltip script on Totemspot which also does nifty things like previewing transmog sets in addition to the usual tooltip details.

Recently though, I was introduced to the uglier side of what happens when you have “competing” websites.

Over the weekend I received a message from one of the guys behind MMO-Champion & WoWDB on a WoW related IRC channel I hang out on. I’ve spoken to this person occasionally before, so I didn’t think anything of it when he told me my website was broken. I checked, and it was working fine, so I asked how it was broken. The reply was:

“when I click a link on any of the guide pages it redirects me to wowhead instead of wowdb”

I wasn’t too impressed by this suggestion, but I prefer being polite whenever I can so I didn’t tell him to shove off straight away. The rest of the short conversation involved touting the things that WoWDB did better, promises of being advertised on MMO-Champion and examples of other sites that are using it, with the implication that they also received this offer and switched because of it. There was even a link to a web traffic profile of one of these sites with the suggestion that the massive spike was due to their referral  although anything dated around the 28th of August makes me think the spike was just because of 5.0.4 (I didn’t have as large a spike on Totemspot, but the traffic increases are fairly similar).

I’m also not worried about getting more “exposure” for Totemspot, because simply getting visitors isn’t enough. I want to grow the forums, and that will take time. The site is also cheap enough to run on donations alone so I’m not worried about ad revenue.

The approach did irritate me, although I should admit if a site that was getting around 900 visits a day (pre-Mists anyway, it’s been steadily growing to the point where I might pass 3,000 visits in a single day and that’s with having my Elemental guide copied to four other locations) is one that gets bribed with advertising in order to increase their “market hold”, it’s both sad and amusing at the same time.

Curse has managed to lower my opinion of themselves on a fairly regular basis. They don’t seem to be happy until they have a near monopoly in a particular area, and will create functionality they can charge for by taking away free functionality or giving paying members access to more “exclusive” stuff. Examples of each are the Curse Client, where you can only download two addons at a time, and the constant beta key give-a-ways for various games. Correction, the Curse Client only downloads one addon at a time, but you can’t have more than two queued unless you have their “premium” membership. I’m not against the ads in the client, because that’s helping pay for the (minimal) amount of bandwidth used, but the now defunct MMO-Minion used at WoWInterface had ads, a premium “remove the ads” option but yet still allowed a One Click Update function.

It’s sad to see that because of the actions of one company there is a growing divide in WoW related sites where you either use their stuff, or your site is “wrong” or “broken”.