It was nearly two years ago that Whiskey Media, hoping to finally become a business, opened up memberships by hosting the Big Live Live Show Live (later, its sequel) and proving to the internet that they could pull off some incredible stuff if people simply voted with their dollars. The idea of paying monthly for a set of web sites seemed pretty gnarly and old school many years after IGN and Gamespot had scaled back their subscriptions, but Whiskey’s fanbase, largely wrapped around flagship site Giant Bomb, was more than happy to give enough of their dollars to justify the experiment. Giant Bomb became my home after most of 1UP.com’s staff was dissolved and the Bombcast is still a regular 3-hour listen every Tuesday evening, so it’s a bitter moment to cancel my Whiskey Media subscription after all that time. But why?
Time. Most of Giant Bomb’s content signature comment is video-based and long. Quick Looks run 30 minutes at least, podcasts last between two to three hours, premium videos go for an hour or two, on and on. It was through these videos and quirky content that I came to love Davis, Gerstmann, Shoemaker, Caravella, and Scanlon after I’d spent a decade not giving a shit about their work at Gamespot. (I blame Shane Satterfield’s awful review of Amped for that, mostly.) Unfortunately, while unemployment allows for easy consumption of their standard work, two full-time jobs do not. This isn’t anything they do wrong, but really just a shift in how I have to consume content now.
Premium Content. One of the biggest perks of becoming a subscriber to Whiskey Media’s network of websites was exclusive content (and high definition videos!). At first this was quaint stuff like having Gerstmann, Tested’s Will Smith, or Screened’s Matt Rorie sitting in front of a webcam and answering questions in an intimate setting. Others were incredibly clever, like their response to the SOPA blackouts earlier this year. But after time, not only did my aforementioned time vanish, but watching Gerstmann talking about fighting games yet again stopped becoming such a draw. After CBS’s purchase of Giant Bomb and Comic Vice (and the subsequent shattering of the Whiskey family), much of this content disappeared as well – a post-purchase highlight being Drew Scanlon’s trip to North Korea. While they’ll eventually be at full strength again as their new workspace gets complete, it’s harder to justify now as they’re moving Flip cameras around a poorly lit office space.
Ownership. While membership in Whiskey Media was never an implicit contract to share of ownership, it felt like it. It felt like my dollars were going to help an awesome small company like Whiskey Media or Giant Bomb achieve its dreams. It was a direct connection between me and the content I want. After Whiskey’s owner Shelby Bonnie sought to portion his empire and cash out, the idea of paying a subscription for a site that’s already owned by a large media company seemed like missing the point. I was no longer giving Gerstmann or Shoemaker my dollars, I was just making their revenue look pretty to their parent company in order to justify further expenses. But there’s no struggle now. There’s no world tour that could potentially fail if there’s not enough subscribers, there will never be a desperate hunger for Giant Bomb survive in the form of quirky-ass videos from people who simply don’t give a fuck about the industry standard. In 2012, should I really have to pay a monthly fee to get a mobile version of a web site and HD-quality videos. No, I shouldn’t.
I love Giant Bomb and I will continue to do so. It’s fantastic to see how the site started and grew, but the hands are different now and the stakes are no longer as high. Godspeed, Giant Bomb, you’ll simply have to make do without me.