Well, it’s with great regret that I am announcing the more-or-less end of Woodgrain Wonderland as an active blog. On October 4, the site will revert to WordPress’ free plan. I’m not sure what this entails exactly, but I imagine the basic text will be retained minus any graphic elements or videos. The web address will also change to http://www.woodgrainwonderland.wordpress.com. For those of you who are interested, please adjust your bookmarks.
This was not a decision I took lightly. Here are the main reasons behind my decision:
- No time. I started Woodgrain Wonderland at a time in my life when I was trying to keep my writing chops up while my well-documented health problems precluded full-time work. I was doing some freelance writing then but it was limited by my demanding dialysis schedule. Receiving a kidney last year opened up my calendar considerably, to the point where my part-time hustle is demanding more and more of my time. By the end of a work day the last thing I want to do is write more. I’ve also become more demanding of my writing: my Venture comparison literally took two weeks to do because I couldn’t stop going back and changing my work.
- No money. Confession time: Woodgrain Wonderland started in part as an experiment in affiliate marketing (that’s why you always saw those eBay links beneath every review). The idea is that I would get a percentage if someone clicked one of those links and wound up buying an Atari 2600 cartridge as a result. I never expected to make huge amounts of money this way, but I hoped to make enough to renew my WordPress premium plan on an annual basis and buy some homebrew cartridges to review. I never wanted to go the Patreon route simply because I would rather my readers donate to legitimate charities than some guy writing a blog. Woodgrain Wonderland didn’t work as an affiliate marketing tool for a number of reasons. For one, everybody knows how to search for a game on eBay — middlemen aren’t really required. For another, I think you have to be marketing something a lot more bleeding-edge than 40-year-old game cartridges to succeed. Finally, I could be wrong about this, but affiliate marketing sure seems to rely on unrealistically positive reviews in order to drive sales. The result is a whole mess of garbage marketing sites which only serve to rip off consumers. I have never given my readers anything but my no-bullshit opinion of the games I reviewed. Often, my worst reviews went to rare, valuable games from which I could have benefited from offering a positive review. But then again, probably not; most people seeking those games are collectors and completists who are not so much interested in the quality of the game as its status as an investment or the bragging rights that come with owning it.
- Little interest. I still like video games; I’m a regular participant in high score competitions held by AtariAge. But I just don’t feel like writing about them anymore. I’ve more or less competed my goal of reviewing at least every mainstream Atari 2600 cartridge released in North America. I want to review (and own) the seemingly endless number of homebrews coming out but there’s just never any room in the budget for them. The need for a couple of thousand dollars worth of car repairs doesn’t help.
I would like to thank everyone who supported Woodgrain Wonderland with page views, comments and praise over the years. An amusing sidenote: I suspect some chicanery on WordPress’ part as they get close to losing my money. A week or so ago my stats suddenly started showing unique visitors numbering in the thousands where before I thought I had a good day if I had 20 or 30 individuals access the site. If the site really has blown up to that extent I may want to reconsider my decision to retire, but I highly doubt it.
So this is goodbye, at least for now. The fact that I’m leaving the blog up — even if it will likely be in the form of boring plain text — indicates that I haven’t precluded making it an active entity again. In fact, this might give me a chance to start over in terms of layout and user-friendliness (I’ve always regretted not having a game index that users could use to easily access a specific review, for example). ‘Til then, be sure to play Atari today.