As a community site competing for attention against major gaming press sites, you’ve got a lot less resources to work with. Instead of lamenting your miserable lot in life, you should be concentrating on being scrappy. What’s that mean? It means worry less about pomp and circumstance, and more about getting the job done effeciently and creatively.
We’re still in the midst of convention season. E3 and Comic-Con are behind us, but we’ve got shows like GamesCom and PAX Prime still ahead of us. It’s during the convention season each year that people start asking me if I know anyone who can get their community site into the big press conferences. Sometimes, community sites make it in, but it’s usually only the biggest or most vocal ones who make it. If a publisher turns you down for their big press conference, there’s no sense blogging about how much they hate community sites, or have given up on community support. Once again, it’s important to understand the key distinction between a community site and a press site and to get scrappy.
Press Conferences are for press sites. You know full-well that there will be many major outlets covering the event. To be honest, you’re not going to get any “news” out of it that you couldn’t find by saving yourself the trouble of furiously transcribing your notes, all the while wondering why the WiFi in the room is terrible. In fact, you could probably sit in your hotel room and post items on your site as soon as the IGNs of the world put them up. You’d beat most other community sites to posting about it, and you’d do it in your bathrobe (Always make sure you give credit to the site originally posting it, though. It’s just good manners). Being present at the big press conferences is in many ways non-essential for a community site. When it comes to the major press events, your community likely won’t care as much about who originally posted it. They just want the news to be there. What they will care about is your follow-up to the big news.
Focus on Follow-Up
In addition to finding round-about ways to cover events like E3 or Gamescom, you should also focus on what you can do to follow up on them. The nature of a community site is that your focus should be on the community of gamers. If you’ll be at the show, go buy a FLIP camera (Seriously, they’re only 100 dollars, and it’s an amazing investment for a community site) and use it to film fan reactions to big news and games throughout the trade-show event. When a big GOTY contender comes out, make sure that you’re covering it from a community angle – what multiplayer modes people are enjoying and why, discussions about story elements in games with rich universes, scheduled online gaming nights. And if you’re not at the show, find ways of soliciting community feedback. Do community trailer breakdowns where you pick apart every frame in a trailer.
Years ago, I was covering Superman Returns on my BlueTights.net site, but couldn’t make it to ShoWest. ShoWest was the big film industry trade show where Warner Brothers was debuting footage from the film for the first time. Most fans couldn’t make it, so I wasn’t alone. So you know what I did? I took transcribed descriptions of the footage from all over the internet, grabbed a couple artists from my community, and we re-created the entire trailer as an animatic. I’ve inserted it below if you want to see it. Later that week, some folks who actually had seen the footage told us we got it almost dead-on. And it was a great community project.
My point is this – get creative with your coverage, and don’t get stuck in thinking that you have to do everything the way the big guys do. Being the little guy makes you a lot more agile. Take advantage of it for all it’s worth.