Astute readers might remember that we asked for your input a while ago in the form of a general readership survey. We think we're pretty good at establishing our strengths and faults (particularly the latter), but we wanted to get some insight from you guys to see where you'd like to see us go from here. Thirteen of our readers sounded off, and so I wanted to take some time to share what those responses were (don't worry -- all the data we got was anonymous) and how we're interpreting them to make this blog even better.
Read on for the results.
1. How often do you read Silicon Sasquatch?
I'll admit that, at first, I was a little offended by these numbers. More than half of you guys only visit a couple times per month? But then I looked at our posting schedule and how infrequently the site has been updated lately and I recognized that we're not giving anybody much reason to check in too often. I'm a big believer in quality over quantity, but I really have to ask myself: what's the point of running a site if you're not gonna post anything to it?
We aspire to post more frequently, even if the trade-off is shorter articles and less thorough editing. This might take a little experimentation, so bear with us.
2. How would you rate the site overall?
On average, it looks like people would rate us at about a 3.69 out of 5. That's not too bad from my point of view. And fortunately, the rest of the responses helped give us a pretty good idea of how to improve people's impression of the blog.
3. Favorite features
No surprises here, for the most part. Our PSAs are few and far between, and chances are that if you're reading other gaming blogs, you'll more than likely hear about the things we talk about in our PSAs (sales on Steam, etc.) through them. We aspire to provide something that you can't find at the major gaming publications -- like smart insights and an adult tone -- and PSAs don't really too well within that philosophy.
I'm a little disappointed to see how few people enjoy the podcasts, but I'm not surprised. As the one person who has edited and produced all eight episodes of the Squatchcast, I can understand why they're unappealing to many of you. Our audio quality isn't great and, ultimately, it's just a bunch of guys sitting around and talking about video games. I'd love to do something more distinctive and memorable with the podcast format. As always, I'd love to hear any suggestions you folks might have in mind.
My gut instinct was that our reviews and editorials were the strongest aspects of the site, and I'm glad that seems to be the consensus among our readers.
4. Usefulness as a consumer guide
This is good news to me. While my top priority in reviewing a game is to discuss how effective it is in delivering on its premise and not to tell you which games are worth sixty bucks, I'm glad that our opinions on the games we play are useful. I'd estimate the average review requires about eight to twelve hours of work between the author and editor(s), so please bear in mind that we don't take these things lightly.
If you have any specific feedback on our reviews, such as features you like and dislike and suggestions for future reviews, please let us know in the comments or feel free to shoot me an email (nick at this website.com).
5. Social networking and syndication
It looks like Facebook is almost ubiquitous among our readership. That's not surprising. But what that tells me is that we could really be doing a lot more to engage with everybody through Facebook even when we don't have new blog posts to talk about. I would love nothing more than to talk about games with our readers day in and day out, so please feel free to drop us a note on there anytime or start up a discussion about whatever gaming-related topic comes to mind.
I'm surprised how few of you subscribe to RSS feeds, but maybe that's just a sign of my addiction to Google Reader. If you're not familiar with RSS, it's a very simple and highly customizable means of reading updates on most blogs and websites. I highly recommend checking it out. Our RSS feed is customized so you can read entire stories from your feed reader, meaning you never have to actually visit the website proper to read our stuff. That means no ad revenue for us (if we ever chose to advertise), but it also means a much better reading experience for you.
6. Mailing list
This got a mixed reaction. Again, my reasoning in asking this question was to see how interested our readers are in communicating outside of actual blog posts (either one-way communication, like a newsletter, or two-way interaction on Facebook). My initial thoughts on doing a mailing list would be to summarize in brief the latest articles, talk about goings-on on the site and to talk about a few of the projects we're currently working on.
If you've read this far in this post, chances are you're genuinely interested in what we're doing with the blog. I'm not ready to talk about any specifics yet, but I think it's safe to say that we're not planning on shutting things down anytime soon -- if anything, we're gearing up to start writing more frequently than ever. And I've got a special project in the works that I can't wait to talk about. I just need to make sure it's a done deal before I say anything specific.
7. The best features
We asked: What is the best aspect of Silicon Sasquatch? Here are your responses:
- The opinion pieces are very well written and fantastically in depth. They are great reads and fun comments conversation, wish you would do more!
- Anything featuring Tyler Martin.
- Independent; obvious game enthusiasm from staff.
- sexy men!! I do really like the reviews.
- The news related articles.
- just seeing what is out there people are talking about video games
- I enjoy the in-depth game analysis offered by silicon sasquatch. It's something not found elsewhere.
- witty banter genetically spliced with in depth while still relatively down to earth reviews makes me happy
Besides confirming Tyler's Narcissus complex, these responses were very exciting for me. I care a lot about providing in-depth analysis and discussion without resorting to the adolescent B.S. and half-assed reporting that, in my opinion, defines major gaming blogs like Destructoid and Kotaku. I'm glad our emphasis on those aspects of the site has paid off.
8. The worst features
What is the worst aspect of Silicon Sasquatch?
- Some weeks, the backlog is all you post. It's not that helpful when it comes to gaming news or opinions and is generally too vague to gain any interest on which aspects of games you're playing are good or bad. Too much filler.
- The parts that don't feature Tyler Martin.
- Not updated often enough.
- everything is to hot to handle!!!
- Many of the reviews, in my opinion, are very flowery (ie. they are far less critical of the games they are reviewing then they could be). It also seems that a vast majority of the games being reviewed are already popular titles that have been pumped up at nauseum by other sites. I really enjoy those sneaker games that not many people know of, or that have been poorly publicized.
- all xbox games and i only have a playstation 3 and a wii
- Lack of updates. Seems a tad bit sparse at times.
- hmmmmm, if I have to come up with something, I suppose posts can be a tad lengthy. But that's probably due to my infrequent readership which requires me to power though 8-10 posts in a session.
It looks to me like, based on your responses, the two most significant problems are:
- Infrequent or insubstantial updates (relying on Backlog instead of providing a full review or an opinion piece)
- An imbalance in our game reviews (too little diversity in platforms, i.e. too many Xbox 360 reviews, and not critical enough)
I wholeheartedly agree with the first problem, and I know the rest of the Silicon Sasquatch team agrees too. We're victims of our own need to be perfectionists -- we meet to discuss story ideas pretty regularly but rarely complete a story. 800-word reviews turn into 2,500 ruminations on the nature of a game's every aspect. It's something I'm personally guilty of, and it always leaves me feeling ridiculous. If you're looking for an exhaustive breakdown of every technical aspect of a game, you'll turn to IGN or GameTrailers. It's my personal belief and, based on your responses, your preference that we write about more games on more systems more frequently and in less exhaustive detail. I think that's the right direction to take this site in, and hopefully that's where we'll end up soon.
The second problem is a little more complicated. Out of the three of us who do the most regular work on the site (Aaron, Doug and myself), I'm the only one with a PlayStation 3 or a PlayStation Portable. While Aaron has a gaming-capable PC, a Wii and a DSi, and Doug has an iPhone, the only system we all share in common is an Xbox 360. It's also where we all do the majority of our gaming, so the odds are that when a major title is coming out, we're going to play and review it on Xbox 360.
Because none of us is rolling in cash and we generate no income from the site, everything we play and write about is paid for out-of-pocket. This is partially why so many of our reviews are positive: we buy games we think we'll like, and we try to enjoy them. Criticism is absolutely essential in a proper review, and it's something we're probably not as consistent with as we should be, but it's difficult when we're mixing our (admittedly expensive) hobby with a semi-professional blog.
Ultimately, our reviews need to earn our readers' trust, and I believe we can be more critical in our reviews without compromising the experience of playing the games we buy.
And as for focusing on lesser-known and independent games: I think it's a brilliant idea. Mainstream outlets cover all the major games extensively, so picking up on those ones that slip through the cracks would be an excellent fit for our site. Our Google Analytics reports always show a strong stream of traffic from searches related to lesser-known games like Robot Unicorn Attack, The Path and Machinarium, so those are clearly great ways to attract new readers as well.
I agree: a balance seems most appropriate. After all, we're talking about video games. We love video games. We can certainly critique them and discuss them from a formal or academic standpoint all day, but when the ultimate purpose of gaming is to have fun, it doesn't make any sense to treat everything from a dry, scholarly point of view. On the other hand, informal and casual tone on its own results in inconsistent and less-than-credible content, and our integrity is very important to us. But if you three ever feel like we're too stuffy in our writing, feel free to speak up and let us know. We always love hearing from you guys, even if it's just to tell us to dislodge our heads from wherever they might be stuck.
10. Favorite articles
Is there one article that stands out as your favorite? If so, please list it below and describe what you liked about it.
- That one written by Tyler Martin. I imagine his smooth, sulky voice in my head when I read it.
- The Modern Warfare 2 review.
- Wish I could remember a specific one, although I loved your guys' best of 2009 posts.
Well, I'm glad to hear the Best of 2009 feature was appealing to at least one of you guys. I'm very proud of how that all turned out.
11. Additional comments
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
- You guys rock! <3
- This is Tyler Martin.
- I've been staring at that "favorite game of all time" question for ten minutes now....
- I would love to see more articles pertaining to news and future releases of titles. Maybe a seasonal game update? Whats new for the summer? possibly some coverage of gaming conventions or interviews with companies or designers? I know that you all have jobs to do outside of this blog though. I am a daily reader and it would be nice to have something new everyday, if only something small like what to expect later this week or links to other great articles pertaining to whats new in the gaming world. I think it would also be interesting to see some of your writers critique some articles done by other famous gaming bloggers/sites.
- Butt fart poop.
- I really enjoy blog interaction. Including polls that readers can see results of would be sweet. And seeing some more specific questions for us readers designed to inspire discussion in the comments could be fun.
There are some real fantastic suggestions in that fourth comment. I like the idea of posting something daily, even if it's just essentially a tease of what's coming soon. Critiquing other writers could be a good idea, but it's also worth bearing in mind that the number of people actually writing about games on a daily basis probably only numbers in the hundreds. It's a small community, so we'd definitely want to make sure we don't burn any bridges.
And as far as blog interaction: I'm all for it. I'll look into what it takes to do polls in WordPress, and I'd like to see more of our future articles directly encourage discussion in the comments section. Of course, that means that you guys have to be willing to leave a comment or two from time to time.
12. The most important question
What's your favorite game of all time?
- Duck Hunt
- New Super Mario Bros.Wii!
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Yoshi's Island?
- Any game with 50 Cent.
- tied for Starcraft (all incarnations up to SC2) and Diablo 2 (+LoD),
- Counter Strike
- Silent Hill 2
- Super Metroid
- FF&7/Arkham Asylum/resident evils
At least nobody wrote "Custer's Revenge."
In all seriousness, I love that nobody had the same response. Games are a fantastic thing because they appeal to so many people in so many different ways. Compared to my current top 5 (Rock Band 2, Diablo II, Plants vs. Zombies, Chrono Trigger and Grim Fandango), I'm seeing a whole lot of diversity out there -- and I love it.
Thank you so much for your responses! I recognize this is just a small-time blog run by a few guys who care about games, but it's been a blast to have a public forum to improve our writing and discuss these things in detail. And although we don't have a massive readership, we couldn't ask for a more dedicated and awesome bunch than you guys. Thanks for sticking it out with us for so long; I hope we'll be hearing from you soon!