The GameSpot Merger, otherwise known as the GameFAQs/GameSpot merger or GF/GS merge, was the amalgamation of the two video game sites, owned by parent company CNET. The merge took place in late 2004/early 2005 and introduced a series of changes to both sites, with GameFAQs and its userbase bearing the brunt of the change, leading to some controversy among the GameFAQs users.
Prelude to the Merger
CJayC: The One Admin
In the early years of GameFAQs history, CJayC alone was responsible for maintaining the site: its user community, its contributions, its coding and its financial demands. After turning GameFAQs into his full time 'job,' CJayC was finding difficulty in keeping the site going. After the addition of more servers, the demand began to exceed what CJayC could support by himself.
CJayC made the decision to place advertisements from sponsors in the form of banners and later flash ads on the sidebar. Users were outraged at CJayC's decision to go commercial, but as CJayC was now dedicated to the site full-time, he simply could not afford to maintain it. The revenue from the advertising agreements paid for the site's upkeep.
However, CJayC delivered a promise to the users that he would never sell the site out, a noble promise that users in general found comfort in.
As noble as CJayC's promise was, the financial and practical strain in maintaining the ever-growing GameFAQs site and community was too much for CJayC. CJayC signed a contract with CNET, granting ownership rights of GameFAQs to CNET while becoming a regular employee and retaining his administrative duties to the site. With CJayC's broken promise fresh in mind, many users were outraged at CJayC's decision, labelling him as a "sellout."
Despite the negative reaction of the community, GameFAQs benefited from the new corporate ownership. While CJayC was still responsible for running the site, GameFAQs now had full tech support from an experienced team, funding to keep the site going, and even a legal department to fall back on. Furthermore, GameFAQs now had a sister site, GameSpot, as well as being affiliated with CNET-owned MP3.com.
The major change with CNET's takeover was the default GameFAQs interface. With the memorable blue and white color scheme gone, GameFAQs now sported a blue, grey and white interface, which some users consider to be inferior to the functional blue and white. After the major site exchange and some tweaks, the site was running as normal, with a Classic style sheet for nostalgic users.
In late 2004, CJayC made the announcement that GameFAQs was officially merging with GameSpot. Like the decision to sell GameFAQs to CNET, users were angered by the seemingly sudden decision to combine with GameSpot, hence losing their autonomy. Adding to their resentment of CNET, users directed their anger towards GameSpot, a hatred that still runs strong to this day.
While some users held CJayC accountable, the decision was made from the top. CNET, as the corporate owner of GameFAQs and GameSpot, saw little reason keep the two game communities separate and called for a merger of the two. The details agreed to by the parties is unknown, but it is known that the merger would only combine the board communities, with both sites retaining autonomy, although they were essentially relegated to different interfaces of the same board system. Despite CJayC's attempts to clarify the extent of the merger, tension was high in the user community.
When the merge was rolled out at the end of 2004, numerous changes were made to GameFAQs, including:
- The creation of "universal" accounts for use on GameFAQs, GameSpot and MP3.com
- The steady feed of GameSpot news and media on the GameFAQs front page
- The combination of GameFAQs and GameSpot userbases into one database
- Game boards on GameFAQs became shared with GameSpot (although non-game boards remained exclusive to GameFAQs)
To distinguish the userbases, users posting from the GameSpot side had a (gs) tag when viewed from the GameFAQs interface, while GameFAQs users wore a (gf) tag next to their usernames when viewed from GameSpot. The tag was later removed due to users from sides using it to discriminate against each other, although GameSpotters could still be easily identified due to the formatting of their posts, as well as the (gs) tags remaining on the Message Detail page.
Also notorious was the untimely editorial feature of BethanyM on the front page of GameFAQs. The coincidental timing of the merge and the GameSpot admin's appearance disgusted users already frustrated with the merger, and sparked off numerous YTMNDs of BethanyM.
With the merging of the userbases came the need to merge the Moderator staff of both sides. The main challenge faced by the Moderator crews was that GameSpot lacked the integral Terms of Service of GameFAQs, as the GameSpot community did not operate on the same basis. Consequently, teething problems were great as GameSpot had to fill out its Moderator ranks, introduce a strict code of conduct and familiarise themselves with the new moderation system, which would be based off GameFAQs.
Initially, GameSpot Moderators could only moderate on the GameSpot side, while GameFAQs Moderators could handle both GameFAQs and GameSpot user accounts, which pleased the GameFAQs community in general in knowing that they were being managed by their own. However, once the GameSpot moderation system was fully implemented, GameFAQs Moderators lost the ability to handle GameSpot violations, which resulted in difficulties in the more experienced and available GameFAQs Moderators being unable to directly handle blatant violations by GameSpot users. Some users, notably Gavirulax, exploited this loophole. Some GameFAQs Moderators were given GameSpot accounts to handle these troublemakers, although availability was still an issue.
Some time after the merger, several GameSpot Moderators became full GameFAQs Moderators. As of current, GameFAQs Moderators have regained the ability to moderate both GameFAQs and GameSpot messages.
As with any major project, there were numerous problems encountered by CJayC and CNET during the merger. However, the more serious problems arose from the userbase, still sore from the merger announcement. These problems include:
- Technical issues with boards
- Numerous problems with universal accounts
- The "search" feature was so bug-ridden it was completely useless for a long time
- A great schism and ongoing discrimination between GameSpot and GameFAQs users, built on the following factors:
- The belief that GameSpot users were inferior in intelligence, exaggerated by numerous incomprehensible posts by GameSpotters
- Inequality in posting privileges: GameSpot users could use images and links, whereas GameFAQs users could not
- GameFAQs users believed that GameSpot users were abusing their Edit Post function to get GameFAQs users banned, although this claim has not been validated by any evidence
The moderation system and staff were having major teething issues, including:
- Vastly different standards in moderations (e.g. Talking about game piracy on GameFAQs is acceptable, but is bannable on GameSpot)
- The different individual and group mentalities between GameSpot and GameFAQs Moderators
- Extreme tension caused by the actions of several Moderators, both directly and indirectly
While most of the technical problems have been fixed and the community tension has died out, the merger has nonetheless left a "scar" on the GameFAQs community as a whole.