Update 12/26/2015: The auction has ended and the volunteer Stratics staff members have won their bid for ownership. After successfully funding their Indiegogo campaign, the volunteer staff apparently worked out a “buy now” option with the seller, Bazaaro Community, Inc., for $16,500. For the official sale announcement, see this thread.
WASHINGTON, DC–Stratics, the longest continually-operating gaming fansite, has been placed for public auction, and Stratics’ volunteer staff members have launched an Indegogo campaign to secure the winning bid.
Stratics was founded in 1997 as a fansite supporting the massively, multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG) Ultima Online. At its founding, Stratics was one of the most forward-leaning websites on the Internet, featuring a variety of tools, calculators, item databases, and guides that set it apart from peer gaming websites for a number of years. Stratics flourished as a result, eventually launching fansites for EVE Online, Everquest, World of Warcraft, Asheron’s Call, and numerous other “portals.” But as Ultima Online and the MMORPG industry changed and struggled to adapt, Stratics found itself facing similar challenges.
Stratics is currently owned and operated by Bazaaro Community, Inc., which sought to return Stratics to its roots as a dedicated fansite for Ultima Online. Bazaaro implemented a number of changes since acquiring the property in October 2014, including launching an independent gaming website, Ravenant, using the WordPress BuddyPress community software. The reason for Bazaaro’s sale of Stratics on Flippa is unknown. However, due to an Internet-wide decline in digital advertising revenue, Stratics currently generates only $300/mo revenue, which is likely inhibiting major advancements for the property over the long term. It is possible that even significant investment, tireless work, and the best of intentions may never empower this truly special and historic fansite to grow beyond its current level of activity. This is very likely a reflection of the evolution of Internet fansites and the MMO industry, generally, an not a reflection of the efforts of the owner or staff community.
A cadre of senior staff members have organized an Indiegogo campaign to secure the winning bid in hopes of maintaining ownership among existing staff members. Under the proposed venture, the senior staff would form an all-volunteer “Board of Directors” to oversee the property, organized as an LLC (@GamersGambitLLC). Although the operating costs would remain the same, the Indiegogo campaign would leave the Board with a significant advantage over previous owners–no debt, which means no loans payable. This would reduce operating costs below current revenue levels. Conversely, one probable challenge for the Board will be to demonstrate consistent earnings for the LLC, without which the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may code the venture as a “hobby” and prohibit the LLC from operating beyond such. However, if the staff are able to maintain minimal operating costs, a debt-free Stratics has a good chance of continuing under Board ownership for the foreseeable future.
The Indiegogo campaign has raised $4,221 of its $10,500 goal since the campaign’s launch a week ago. For additional information on the volunteer-led effort and the proposed LLC charter, see this thread.
Disclaimer: the author of this article is the immediate past owner of Stratics. He volunteered at Stratics for five years–as a writer, moderator, administrator, director of content, director of operations, and eventually owner of the website.