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Q&A: GameFly Founder Discusses Shacknews Acquisition

Following the announcement of game rental firm GameFly's acquisition of gaming site Shacknews, Gamasutra spoke with GameFly founder Sean Spector and Shacknews founder Steve Gibson t
Game rental firm GameFly's acquisition of long-independent gaming site Shacknews was a surprising development to many. The deal was announced yesterday, and while the terms and price were undisclosed, GameFly pledged to keep the site's editorial direction and staff intact. The company was vague about its long-term intentions for Shacknews, which also boasts a large, active community as well as game media download site FileShack. Gamasutra spoke with GameFly founder Sean Spector and Shacknews founder Steve Gibson to get a sense for the reasoning behind the partnership, the possible future opportunities it will offer, and the extent to which the sites may become integrated. At a glance, this is an unusual match. What led GameFly to acquire Shacknews? Sean Spector: We've been in the business for about seven years, delivering video games and game content around those games to help people make decisions to rent or buy. We've been very interested in the news space; it's the one thing GameFly doesn't offer to our members. We started looking at news sites, and three things really were at the top of our mind: the quality of the content--first, is it respectable and credible?; secondly, is there an active and vibrant community around that content?; and thirdly, is there a high-quality, good user experience? Steve and company, I think, hit all three of those right on the bullseye. How does Shacknews as an organization this fit into the larger GameFly business? Will it be integrated into the site? SS: We already have a media component to our business, in that we've been selling ads on GameFly for several years now. So we're not completely new to the content or media side of the business. We're looking to expand our offerings, and Shacknews and FileShack allow us to do that. We think we can bring some cool stuff to the table -- development resources, infrastructure, or the ability to grow the Shacknews userbase through our network. When did you start discussing this deal? Steve Gibson: We started talking seriously about six months ago. SS: Yeah, probably six to nine months ago. Shacknews has a history of PC coverage, but game rentals are inherently console-oriented. So do you have plans to enter the digital distribution space, possibly on the back of FileShack? SS: We've kept a close eye on the digital space for a while as it relates to console games, and I'm always looking at things as they relate to digital downloads, but this really wasn't about that. This was about a high quality content site, and we thought this was a unique opportunity to expand its reach. FileShack delivers millions of files, whether they're demos, patches, videos. If you think about GameFly, that's what GameFly does: deliver games. It's not that far off, if you step back and look at it. You already run editorial content on your site, licensed from other providers. Will that change? Will you bring in more Shacknews content directly to GameFly itself? SS: I don't think there are any plans to change any of the existing partnerships. I think in the future, we'd like to see some of the Shacknews content on GameFly proper. I think that's a good way to bring some of that content to the forefront. Are you looking into syndicating Shacknews content to other media outlets? SS: I think it's on the table. Several sites you have acquired are simply linked at the bottom of your site. Will Shacknews be more heavily integrated than that? SS: I think when we're ready to integrate Shacknews into parts of Gamefly, it would be on a more substantial level than that. Shacknews recently implemented a more extensive user profile and game database system. Was that an incentive for the sale, and do you plan to integrate that into your own user database? SS: That's probably further down the road. Haven't really explored that 100 percent yet. Definitely where there's ways to leverage each other's assets, whether it's something Steve and Maarten have built or something GameFly has built, if it rewards the users or members, we want to do that." SG: That was not something specifically done with GameFly in mind. That was something to improve the user experience internally. Obviously, there's a great opportunity there, and it turned out great with this deal, but as far as whether that was some kind of master plan -- it wasn't. SS: I think that's a good example of what makes Steve stand above the crowd. He has been innovating with that site for a long time. Do you have any thoughts on, or plans for, the Shacknews community, which is infamously self-reliant and outspoken? SS: We knew we wanted a site with an active community, and Steve has that. We didn't want, when the story gets posted, for nobody to comment on it. We love that form of expression, and people to feel comfortable with it. Have you read any of the feedback? SS: I've looked at some of it. There's a lot, which is good. [laughs]

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