SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA — IGN, which began in 1996 as just another video game site in a flood of similar sites with a similar voice, has become one of the behemoths of Internet journalism, with over 13 million unique visitors a month and a staff size rivaling that of many newspapers. Its success is a model for how a Web site can tap a specific niche audience and do so well enough to create a publication that goes beyond the typical scope of the enthusiast press—when it comes to video game coverage, it’s no exaggeration to say that IGN is the most important outlet in the country.
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IGN’s emphasis on criticism has always set it apart from its competitors. “We’re not trying to do investigative journalism in any way. It’s really sort of editorial heavy. It’s a critic’s site,” says editor-in-chief Hilary Goldstein. IGN tends to review even the most obscure new releases, even if those games are well outside its audience’s typical areas of interest. The idea is that the criticism itself should be good enough to read on its own merit, regardless of what’s being covered. “Our goal really is to be informative and entertaining. We want to … give a good sense of games and stuff that are on the horizon, but at the same time we want to give something enjoyable to read,” says Goldstein.
Because of this, IGN has become a publication primarily about the media it covers, but also about the personalities of its writers. The site’s entire editorial staff is encouraged to write offbeat opinion pieces on various topics, in addition to their day to day coverage, and the tradition has become a hallmark of the site’s identity. For instance, IGN writers have weighed in freely on everything from politically charged issues like the Taliban in Medal of Honor controversy (players could initially play as Taliban characters; due to pressure, this feature was removed from the game prior to its release) to more industry-specific problems, like the surplus of game sequels.
“We’re very aware that people want to have a voice, and they want to read stuff that is very opinionated,” says Goldstein. “We just wanted to open it up to our editors and say that if there’s a topic that matters to you … most likely it matters to a lot of our readers.”
IGN was acquired by News Corp in 2005, but the site’s editorial side has remained largely the same since before the acquisition. Goldstein himself has been at the site since 2001. The main effect of the buyout was to make IGN the lead site of a network including FilePlanet, Direct2DriveGameSpy (whose staff has almost entirely transferred over to IGN), and AskMen.com. Nearly all of the sites that function as part of IGN Entertainment cater to young males—flaunted as “bro-verload” by the ad sales team—but even within the network, content sharing is uncommon.
Within games and entertainment journalism in general, IGN isn’t blazing trails with its interviews or cut-throat leads, but it’s proved valuable nonetheless by allowing its editors to experiment with all types of coverage. “Our idea has always been that if you come to IGN once a month, we want you to land on that front page and there’s always some type of content you’re interested in,” says Goldstein. “You might want to read something that’s humorous, you might just want to read something that’s an editor’s opinion, or you might want a review. We want to offer that mix and I don’t think there’s another site who offers the variety that we offer on a day-to-day basis.”
City: San Francisco, Calif.
Principal Staff: Hilary Goldstein, editor-in-chief; Peer Schneider, senior vice president and publisher; Chris Carle, entertainment editorial.
Affiliations: Varying syndication agreements
CMS: Custom CMS