This is goodbye (kind of)

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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.




8 thoughts on “This is goodbye (kind of)

  1. That’s a shame but completely understandable. I think your blog is the best written ‘complete’ repository of Atari 2600 reviews on the net and I’m glad the text will still be available. Maybe one day there’ll be a book ! 😉
    Good luck for the future and I wish you the best of health going forward !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry to see you go. Do you have a list of the (non-homebrew) VCS games you hadn’t yet reviewed? I’m curious how close you got to your goal. Some of the rarest ones, like Birthday Mania, Eli’s Ladder, Gamma-Attack, and Red Sea Crossing, don’t seem to have been reviewed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi P. — I have to admit that the only one of those games I’ve even heard of is Red Sea Crossing. I used AtariAge’s database as my primary game list, although I realized about halfway through that the AA database is badly out of date (not a condemnation — it’s not like anyone gets paid over there AFAIK).


    • To answer your question a little better, I haven’t reviewed any of the Starpath Supercharger games. Buying an actual Supercharger is probably out of the question from what I’ve seen, but I do have an old computer with a CD/DVD port, so buying and reviewing the games on the Stella has a New Brain compilation may be an option someday. If you ever happen to find it in the non-physical media realm, though, please let me know.


      • I missed your comment reply back in October and only saw it the other day. I second Peter Mulholland’s recommendation below — the Harmony cart will happily play all the Supercharger games. If you put that together with one of ROM Hunter’s curated ROM sets and a current version of Stella, you should have no trouble playing anything on real hardware or emulator — and if anything doesn’t work, the folks behind these things will definitely want to know about it.

        I put together a list of the games you hadn’t reviewed, which also gave me a pleasant excuse to a stroll through your reviews just now (your updates are sorely missed!). Outside of the Supercharger games, you really did get just about all of the North American library, missing only these:

        Coleco: Berenstain Bears, Smurfs Save the Day
        Mystique: Knight on the Town (aka Lady in Wading)
        Bomb: Assault
        Panda: Dice Puzzle
        Exus: Video Reflex, Video Jogger
        Other developers: Music Machine (Sparrow), Eli’s Ladder (Simage), Gamma-Attack (Gammation), Birthday Mania (Personal Games), Extra Terrestrials (Skill Screen Games), Red Sea Crossing (Inspirational Video Concepts), X-Man (Universal Gamex)

        You also have placeholder reviews for Sentinel (Atari 2600) or International Soccer (M Network).

        Ironically Knight on the Town is probably the best of all the “erotic” games, or at least the one I remember as having the most coherent gameplay. X-Man is awful but kind of hilarious.

        As for other regions, it looks to be about 27 PAL games left. Prototypes and homebrews, no idea, there are just too many.


  3. Like I said on a previous comment, really enjoyed your writing. Sorry to hear this is the end, at least for the minute. Thanks for doing all you did.

    If you do make a comeback, can I suggest a Harmony cart? It can play the Starpath games and homebrew roms…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s