GameTrailers.com is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and they are marking the occasion with a complete relaunch. Brad Winters, General Manager of GameTrailers.com spoke to GamesIndustry International about the complete makeover of the web site. "We're relaunching GT.com from the ground up," said Winters. "It's basically brand-new, everything from the back-end to the new logo, a new look and feel. There's really not one bit we're taking from the old site except the data. It's been about 5 years since our last full site refresh, the last time we sat down and rethought the whole thing."
The relaunch has been a long process, starting about a year ago. As GameTrailers saw the market changing, and audience habits changing, they felt the site had to change as well. "We noticed there was a heavier year-over-year consumption of our original content," said Winters. According to Omniture, video views from GT original content now average 40 percent of total monthly views, up from 28 percent in 2010.
"We're seeing tablets and mobile phones becoming a bigger piece of the pie"
"GT's legacy and what we are built on was being a comprehensive library of publisher assets," said Winters. "That's where we built our brand; that's our name, after all. Now you see everybody from YouTube to every game site to the publishers themselves have the easy ability to publish and create video, so that publisher content becomes more commoditized. Even though it's still the biggest piece of the pie on GT, it's flattening out a bit. People are coming to our site to view the latest trailers, but also to see our original content, our shows on SpikeTV, our retrospectives and Top 10s, and content we license from Mega64, ScrewAttack and others."
"We really wanted to address that with the new site and some of the off-site stuff that we're going to be doing with the relaunch. The current site is very game-focused, there's really no show experience. If people wanted to watch a show we had to shoehorn it into a game experience. That didn't really make sense. This new site will really focus on these shows and create show experiences as well as kind of a hub. So if someone wants to dig into all that original stuff that we have, there's now a home for that."
Changes in consumer habits were also an important factor in the revisions. "We're seeing tablets and mobile phones becoming a bigger piece of the pie in terms of how people are consuming content," noted Winters. Omniture figures show that average monthly visits to GT's mobile site have increased 106 percent in 2012 vs. 2011. "We're going to be focusing on mobile and social," Winters continued. "We're seeing triple-digit increases year-over-year on mobile; we're going to be creating specific mobile web experiences and native app experiences around our content. Unfortunately this won't happen right at launch, but 4-6 weeks later those experiences will be locked in."
"Our audience is growing; dotcom traffic may be growing a few percent, but the mobile and social platforms are exploding," said Winters. GameTrailer's fan base on Facebook is up 123 percent over a year ago, reaching on average more than 2 million users per month on Facebook in 2012.
"Dotcom traffic may be growing a few percent, but mobile and social platforms are exploding"
Perhaps the most important shift is a philosophical one for GameTrailers. "Talking to our users, we saw one constant theme, and that is they want us to peel back the curtain a little bit and let them into our world," explained Winters, "For a long time, our philosophy was 'Hey, guys, we're going to be in the background and let the games shine, let them speak for themselves. We don't want to get in the way.' But there's a fine line between being completely invisible and being too showy."
Winters feels there's a happy medium. "You'll see a lot more opinion and curation of our content. I'm sure you noticed going to E3 that the standard talking points are almost uniform, if you go from site to site and look at some of that content. We'll still do that, because we want people to get the information, but I think more so people want to know what we think and what we feel about events or first looks at games. They want more of an unfiltered opinion and 'take'. So there's going to be a lot more of that content as well."
With all of the changes that GameTrailers is going to present all at once, is Winters worried about the response? "The audience is very committed, so we expect lots of feedback," Winters said. "One thing we're changing pretty significantly is the video experience. That's what makes me nervous, because this is a big change. We're going to be monitoring things very closely. We've blocked out a good amount of time to fix things and tweak things after launch."
The GT fans are highly engaged, averaging 44 minutes per viewer, higher than other competing gaming news sites, according to comScore. Those committed viewers will certainly be ready to share their opinions of the revisions. GameTrailers will have a busy time in the next few weeks as the technology changes are stress-tested, and the patience of the editors is stress-tested by acerbic comments from viewers who are often resistant to changes. The real story will be told in a few months by seeing if the audience increases and stays engaged with the site.